Off the subject of my own career crisis...last night, I enjoyed my time at our weekly Community Group more than usual. After lively discussions about Food Rules, Celebrity Rehab, Lost, 24, and The Bachelor (and a lot of laughing!), we got around to considering Tom's message last Sunday regarding Communion. And I got to ask my question. I understand the point about "remembering the poor" but how do we actually DO that? If "remembering" means "orienting our lives around" and "serving," what does that really look like? I mean really? We're not all supposed to go live in Africa, or spend our afternoons at Southtown. Sending that money to World Vision for Peace (a 6-yr-old boy in Zimbabwe) once a month just doesn't seem like "orienting my life" around this child. And whether or not I attend auxiliary meetings for a woman's shelter doesn't make a difference. It all feels like a mere token.
Anyway, we had a thought-provoking discussion last night. We talked about how relationship seems to be at the heart of this "remembering." Then I recalled a book that helped me wrestle with this in the past. And I picked it up this morning and opened it up to Chp. 11 "Servants or Friends?" After briefly breaking down the idea of Jesus having things "backward" and always "turning things upside down," (the greatest among you will be your servant, Matt. 23:10-12, etc...), the author explains how Christians have tended to get _Christ_ backwards and says, "There are bad servants as well as good servants. The critical issue may be in understanding the difference. A good servant must really have it backward. He can't use the imperatives of mission and service to dominate and control."
He goes on to say that America's GNP is now dependent on an economy of professional servers (doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers etc...) So now, "instead of a nation of conquistadors, we are a nation of servers...the question is, whether we are a nation of good servants or lords of commercialized systems of service that attempt to exert control."
Finally, the author explains it in relation to communion...and this really spoke to me. So I've copied it here, word for word:
"At the Last Supper, Christ was telling the disciples those things of greatest importance. It was His final opportunity to communicate the central values of His faith. "No longer do I call you servants," He said, "for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father, I have made known to you" (John 15:15). Finally, Christ said you are not servants. You know the Father's heart. You know the inside story. You are friends. Perhaps beyond the revolutionary Christian mandate of service is the final revolution, the possibility of being friends. Friends are people who know each other, who care, respect, struggle and are committed through time. Christ's mandate to be friends is a revolutionary idea in our serving society. Why friends rather than servants? Perhaps it is because He knew that servants could always become lords but that friends could not. Professional servants may operate on the assumption that "you will be better because I know better," but friends believe that "we will be better because we share in each others' lives." Servants are people who know the mysteries that can control those to whom they give "help." Friends, on the other hand, are free to give and receive help from each other. Here we are, a nation of professional servers, following Christ's mandate to serve. And here He is, at the final moment, getting it backward once again. The final message is not to serve. Rather, He directs us to be friends."
from Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life; Rethinking Ministry to the Poor, by Robert Lupton. p.67
It probably makes better sense in the context of the whole book (of course) and I have no final conclusion on this. But it's given me good food for thought and a desire to share it for whatever reason. It also leaves me with a sense of gratitude, esp. to: a) Mr. Lupton for being wise enough to distill this point and write so clearly and b) the friends I'm humbled by who get this serving thing backwards in the best way (at places like Bethany Home, Better Basics, Red Mountain Church, Restoration Academy, Cornerstone School, SouthTown, Young Life...) Who knows? Maybe this will plant a seed in the garden of my career crisis. That will be my prayer for now.