I’m heading to The Justice Conference in Philadelphia this week. I wrote a series of posts several months ago reflecting on themes related to the pre-conference session “Sustaining a Justice Movement: how did John M. Perkins, Mother Teresa, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer do it?” which I will be leading on Friday, February 22 at 9am. I’m going to reprint those pieces this week in hopes that we might all be thinking through these matters together. If you will be in Philly, I hope you’ll come to my session! If not, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Hope to see you at The Justice Conference!
How to Sustain Jesus’ Justice Movement, Part 3
Do you look at those you serve as the objects of your good will and charity or as subjects who shape you—even to the point of becoming your benefactors and friends? In discussing this subject with my colleague Beyth Hogue Greenetz, she said it is a lot more difficult to get burned out on serving people when they are your friends. It may very well have been the case that the same Mother Teresa who saw Jesus in those she served saw herself as the friend of those she served. Maybe this was one of the keys to the vitality of her work over the years.
Such encounters at the intersections of life can be destabilizing if we want to stay in control, if we want to be the producers and charitable ambassadors who make everyone consume our good will. At some point, we will likely run out of good will and teeter and fall when we operate from this elevated position and posture. But what happens when we are open to making new friends along the way and are surprised by the blessings we receive from the seemingly least likely of benefactors? Our service becomes a grand adventure, as we experience the richness of the widow in the temple with her two coins and the man at the street corner with his remaining pastries. Our own coffers and cups and pastry boxes will run over as a result of the bounty of God’s relational grace.