// india, social action and st patrick

In a week’s time, i’m off to India along with the rest of the interns here at St Aldates, Oxford to work with Betel, the drug rehabilitation charity that i’ve previously spent a little time working with in Spain (see Rehab). You can find out more about it here and i’d love to encourage you to be praying for us as we head off – not only for protection, but also for focus (it’s surprisingly easy, after a few missions, to feel like this is just another work commitment), wisdom and unity. Betel is a fantastic example of what Christian development and aid work can look like, demonstrating a simply breathtaking level of selfless love on top of some really sophisticated – and effective – planning, and we arguably need more organisations like it.

In the context of the recent debate that’s raging over at the Sojourners community, with right-wing Christian commentator Glenn Beck asserting that “social justice” is simply a code-word for communism and Nazism, it’s always worth re-examining how effective any Christian model of social justice is – not to mention how scripturally grounded it is. As one blogger pointed out, it’s fine asserting that the Bible talks more about justice than anything else, but, in terms of pure word counts, it also devotes more space to the useless kings of Israel than it does to the crucifixion of Jesus, and so it is important to look at the real emphasis of Scripture. Justice in isolation ultimately doesn’t cut it, not without a theology behind it – i know many of the readers of this blog have a theology of social justice, but i’d love to hear how you got there, for the furthering of the debate as much as anything else.

Shane Claiborne opened his book The Irresistible Revolution with a quote from Catholic activist Ammon Hennacy, who stated that:

Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual. But the one who has love, courage and wisdom moves the world.

I certainly tend towards cowardice when it comes to justice. Love – real, selfless, agape love – is hard work, and takes real courage. It takes an element of risk and a willingness to go the extra mile, to fight for the people who need to be fought for, as well as a willingness to look up from ourselves in order to do that. Much of this blog has been about my responses to the challenges laid out in Scripture, and whilst i still think that sharing those responses (and how i came to them) is useful, it ultimately has to be accompanied by action.

James described the very picture of introspection in his letter to the church, telling his readers that:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

You can so easily create a mirror image of yourself, a picture of where your flaws and strengths are and a sense of what you need to do as a result, and then never act to change it. Somebody once told me that they thought it took courage to write about myself in this blog, but the truth is that it doesn’t really – it takes courage to do something about it.

The real risk of going away on mission is not that you might have your eyes opened to the need; the needs, at the end of the day, are pretty obvious. The real risk of mission is that it might force us to be different, to change our priorities – and that’s something that you can’t do so easily from the comfort of a Caffe Nero.

It’s that which takes real courage. Love wins, sure – but love hurts, too.

Yesterday was St Patrick’s Day, and 24-7 Prayer posted this awesome prayer:

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

That’s a prayer i’d love to echo during our time away, and it’s a prayer i’d love for you to echo too (both for yourself and for us), remembering that this is a task that is hard enough that only God can accomplish it. We need some kind of outside influence to help us – as we’re not strong enough alone, even if sometimes we may feel like it. It’s Christ in us, the hope of glory, which transformed us in the first place, and it’s Christ working through us that has the potential to transform any of our situations. He is our love, wisdom and courage, and at the end of the day it’s him who’s going to be transformational, not me.

I have to discover that over and over again, as i keep forgetting it, and it’s entirely possible that i’ll forget it again before we head out to India a week Monday. Likelihood is, in fact, all fourteen of us will. That’s why we need your prayers. I’ll write something about it while we’re out there, but for the moment, pray for us – inadequate, broken and glorious nonetheless.

Just the way it should be.

  1. March 29th, 2010

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