Letting People In

Compassion Fatigue

A new post by Gaz


As a self proclaimed introvert, I have had to learn to find the sweet fruits that are within relationships and social environments. There is much written about such animals as myself and our need for ebb and flow, to flow out and to retreat back to the place of nurture. It is a necessary but also most bizarre dance to have to learn and navigate lest we become isolated, limited and over domesticated by our chosen cave, because the wild, the unscheduled happenings, the joyous being acted upon by others, is beyond our door.

I remember doing mainstream counselling against the advice of my sectarian Christian counter parts, since it was insufficiently sanctified (controlled and safe). 

I chose to be stretched on many fronts, my openness, my vulnerabilities and imposed limitations of the culture of my chosen faith. In year two we had to choose a working partner for the year and submit to the lecturers why we were making such a selection. Mine was that I wanted to be paired with a female, since such things were not permitted in my world (having been told as a youth pastor that you meet a female co worker with the door open and if you have to be in the same car, she sits in the back). 

I was very Southern in my cultural trappings and she was exceptionally Northern, it was awesome to spend time with her and bare our souls in the context of our work objectives. We needed to attend a long weekend away twice a year to get the sufficient number or course hours in and on this one occasion my co-worker did not show up. In the sessions I was feeling withdrawn and unable to engage, and at one moment I was triggered by the session and needed to go sit outside and simply cry. After a while the lecturer came and sat with me and said to me “you don’t really ‘do’ people do you, but your trying to let them in. Is there anything different about this time away which has gotten under your skin, reached into your insides?”

I had no idea really, as I was experiencing something deep in my being which was outside my rational minds ability to control, supress or articulate. “ I am aware that your co-worker of several months isn’t here… could it be that you have let someone in, that you are feeling the loss of them in this part of our journey together”? The snot and tears that ensued suggested that she was on the money, on target and correct.  

What she said next was transformative for me. “ I feel that the kind of person you are, but also your journey so far, has made you able to get by and survive without allowing too many people to get into your insides. What you don’t realise is that you have found a way to survive but to truly live, you have need of people, and what you are experiencing is loss, and even in this moment, grief because they are not here. To be complete, you have to let others in, and perhaps at times, carry one another”.

These days I work helping those who are burning out working with refugees who are serving them through legal support or even the provision of food. Almost without exception it is because they are letting people, and their stories in.

What they are experiencing is called secondary trauma, where an aspect of what you hear from another, becomes your own and you have to process, heal and recover from what you have let in. Keeping people out comes at a price, and so does letting them in.

Perhaps, aside from my created personality type, there was a fear of letting people in for me, perhaps somewhere I had allowed this and it cost me too much, perhaps I didn’t know how deep within us this sits, where ‘letting people’ and their stories in actually resides within us. So my need to self manage had created what became too much distance. It is, after all, a dance of ebb and flow and frequent imbalance.

For a Christian this is problematic since if we are alive, at all on our insides, we are driven by a God given compassion. Compassion is deeply profound and we need to learn to manage it and walk with it with an understanding of where compassion begins and where compassion resides. I have personally had to learn the dance of compassion, the dance of proximity to others, the dance of like, love and loss, which were once kept in a box under lock and key. Today I am learning how to truly live.

So what does it mean to let people in, in a way that is productive, life giving at a mutual level and does not tip the balance towards destructive?

The Hebrew word for Compassion is Rachamim, it is derived from the word Rechem, which is the word for Womb … and there you have it. 

There is nothing shallow about allowing our compassion and love for others to creep into our insides, because in reality this is the place that the feeling began, in the most intimate place of carrying another life through aspects of need and growth. Does it cost, absolutely, but rewards also. Does it cause us pain and need of recovery yes, but life in equal measure.

No Comment

I was sent a long (spelt looooooooooooong) message from someone who does not live in the USA asking me to forward it to contacts. It was a long explanation as to how much good Trump had done and how Biden is not going to be good for the USA, and written in very strong terms. I replied saying I could not forward it, and not because I am anti-Trump. I also could not forward such a message if the content was reversed.

Such messages do not help bring about a level of understanding of one another, but simply increase the polarisation. There are those who are extremists, but most people see themselves as pretty much in the centre. My centre for some is extreme! Gayle and I have been called communists when in the USA! For those who believe that health care is a privilege to be paid for we are extreme left! From my position on the spectrum others are extreme right. (In Spain where I am able to vote I vote for what the media often terms as ‘extreme left’, I am told most evangelicals are now leaning toward the ‘(extreme) right’. Votes are never easy – the party who tends to get my vote are pro-choice. That is not a comfortable position but I find many other parties are not pro-life once the life is born – that too is not comfortable if the X goes against their name.) There are extremists on both left and right but for the most part people simply want something better than what is here. The important part is not where we are on the spectrum but how we relate to those of a different persuasion.

I could not forward the message because there was nothing redemptive in it and it can only sow into the divide (again the documentary ‘The Social Media’ is an eye opener).

Second, not only do I not live in the USA but I am not responsible for her. Many things in the world disturb us and we can feel responsible but powerless. It leads more to criticism than effectiveness (I see no issue with being disturbed and as a result having an opinion, but taking responsibility for something is considerably more helpful). Whatever we mean by ‘the Lord spoke to me’, the Lord spoke to me one day saying that I was not responsible for the USA and I needed to leave that in the hands of those who were taking responsibility. It was a release, but also pushed me to take responsibility for what was – in measure – landing on my lap. If responsible I have a right of input, of say. Ever been tempted to criticise the parenting of someone else? For that reason I have never been able to claim that I was a ‘good’ father, nor for the same reason a ‘good’ husband.

In the flow of reading the LOOOOOONG message, footsteps came up our apartment block. There on the door was an eleven year old. He came in for about an hour. I had a Zoom call lined up. Into my incredibly important life he came.

Make the connection, Martin.

Pray for the future of a land – and maybe we are not doing too well when we consider how things are for many people, but pray for the future and at least make some space for a person born in the land and in the future will fill space after I have gone from here.

So back to my WhatsApp. One candidate might be much better than the other. I might have an opinion on that… but I need to be able to see an eleven year old as through the eyes of his creator / redeemer. Resent him coming in and disturbing me, send the WhatsApp (or an opposite one) to whoever. I hope I am better than that. I hope we all are.

Social Dilemma

Biased - me? Never!

We recently watched this film ‘The Social Dilemma’. Frightening as it exposes the algorithms that give us feeds that are in line with our tastes / ‘biases’. So if I read news feeds, social media ensures that what I read is in line with my political bias. The term ‘fake news’ is so abused, but if I read conspiracy items aligned to one side of the argument I will receive yet more items confirming the conspiracy. Eventually my rightness will be confirmed by many voices, and I will be closed to any contrary voice – indeed I will not even be able to read them as they will not be fed to me. If I do come across any it will instantly be discerned as ‘fake news’. All driven by advertising so as I get it all for free. Free as in ‘at the cost of my own soul’.

I would love to be analysed as to what I read and why. I am not on social media – yes this will be linked to a facebook page – but I am never on facebook, never read if anyone leaves a comment there (well maybe I have read one or two this year). I am not on twitter, dah, dah, dah. But I am still pretty sure that pure Mr. Scott is not exempt.

If I was (just by way of example!) of a left-leaning politics my feed would be hyper at this time in the USA pre-election. (Coming from Europe I am not sure what with as Mr. B running is anything but left wing… even the suggestions is that former president Mr. Ob was more right than many of his predecessors from the Republican party!) If I was (and this time it is genuinely by way of example) of a right wing persuasion my feed would be biased in the other direction all-together. The result – the divide is exaggerated; civil war at one level or another. [BTW I suggest that Jesus would label all war as civil war – war against ourselves and fellow humans.]

I have to confess that once we make an alignment we are in great danger. If we do not realise that we are biased and find it hard to hear the opposite we will soon be in trouble. (We were privileged – now almost two years ago to have a conservative, anti-Brexit person staying with us. So good to hear from them. So hard to listen, but I think we managed to listen.)

So we are biased. The ‘other’ is biased. The question we ask is ‘are you for us or for the other?’

If we are to sow any seed that has any element of the Gospel in it there has to be seeds of love, respect and peace. Once we sow anything that is dehumanising we have lost the plot. A call to pick up arms (literal), or to revert to using the arms of hate speech (and maybe words are more powerful than arms as hate words fashion arms and they become more lethal as a result) can never be used.

The difference that has to mark us out cannot be what news feeds do we receive. The bias was already there, social media just exaggerates it. The difference has to be love. And if love can be present there is room for faith and hope.

Dreams

Azahar, COVID, Militia...

In the next few days I will have a guest writer here, Gayle, who will post about a dream she had recently. I have a few ‘key’ dreams per year that help me understand some aspect or I gain a new perspective. There is a common ‘place’ I visit in dreams and when there gain an insight I have never had before, so the dream always contains a surprise. The element of newness and surprise is always underlined in that those present do not get the revelation at all, and the place is known for the prophetic and response to God. We all see in part and given the nature of the people at the place not getting the revelation it symbolically shows there is always new revelation. A few a year, but Gayle has many. We have our apartment in Oliva resulting from two dreams she had, including one that had her typing in a (previously unknown) Spanish word ‘azahar’ into a google map to show someone where we live. 700metres away from our apartment in Oliva on the sign pointing toward our apartment is the very word ‘azahar’ (orange blossom).

Earlier this year we were sent a dream concerning the COVID virus and its path. The person who sent it had been praying about two things a) COVID and b) how would God communicate times and seasons in an urban / Western setting (in contrast to Pharaoh and the agricultural setting, with cows and grain).

The dream has been for us very key in understanding the phases the virus is currently and will go through.

Anyway… dreams. They are fascinating. Recently we read of one that showed the rise of civil war in their land, complete with militia on the streets, with the twist that God was standing behind these militia to give them success, effectively returning ‘the nation to God’. Wow! How does one interpret that?

Dreams can be from God and show us what we had never considered before. They can be from ‘God’ (maybe, or from our own ‘soul’) showing us more about ourselves than about God’s desire / plan for what is to come.

Our theological convictions of course affect how we interpret a dream. If violence is one of God’s normal tools, and there is a time to pick up the sword for the Gospel we will go one way with the interpretation… if the path of non-violent resistance is seen as the Jesus’ (third-)way then we will go another way. (Someone known to some of the readers of this blog, Charles Strohmer, has responded to the theology of ‘get a sword’ very eloquently here):

We need to be challenged concerning our beliefs when we present a dream, we need to be open to them being about us, not a ‘God-dream’. We all see in part, and the lack of sight is often springing from my distorted alignment and any allegiance that sits alongside my allegiance to Christ (hence my view on not taking an oath in court or elsewhere).

All the above is to give a little backdrop to the guest writer of all guest writers who will have fingers to keyboard probably by the end of the week. The dream seems to be very timely in this epoch, and is to be weighed.

From certainty to uncertainty and then…

Longing for certainty?

I have just completed the first round of zoom calls related to ‘Humanising the Divine’… (BTW I now hear an inner voice saying ask them why they have not yet bought this life changing piece of work? Quickly squashed by ‘Life-changing… really?’). OK no more advertising. Second BTW have you seen ‘The Social Dilemma‘? It is huge eye opening exposé of how vulnerable we are and how society after society is being manipulated to be polarised. It also fits with the preface with my confession that I am biased and believe certain things cos it suits me, and I can defend myself with the Bible… until someone comes along who knows a lot more than me!

I have been very moved by hearing the journeys that people have been on and the integrity with which they have responded to God provoked by crises or difficulties. It highlights what I suggest that the major ways in which we change is not simply through a ‘God-encounter’ but through how we respond (to God) when issues come up. A number spoke of the days (past) of certainty.

I have set out two aspects (borrowing from Robert Johnston) for certainty. The means of reconciliation to God is via the cross, and the authority for what we believe is Scripture. That faith cannot be expressed in a box, not in a statement of faith that someone signs. (Penal substitution, inerrancy, millennial rule etc., are all interpretations of Scripture, not teaching of Scripture, but are often written into statements of faith – on none of the above could I sign such a statement.) Those two certainties that I am settled on do not settle too much beyond that point. A Calvinist believing in limited atonement (Jesus only died for the elect) and a Universalist both tick the above two boxes… Not to mention the more challenging issues of ethics, such as a view on marriage or divorce.

If we have an evangelical background we will probably have come through to a place of confidence in a set of beliefs. That is such an advantage. However, there nearly always arise questions that push back against those beliefs. A common one of course is to do with justice and the ‘problem of evil’: if God foreknew… what about all the ethnic cleansing in the OT… etc.

The questions can of course be much more personal, particularly when we face issues that are very close to us relationally.

I have observed that there is a journey from a narrow certainty, to questions that lead to uncertainty (that is why I think the context for this uncertainty are the two ‘certain’ points above – cross and Scripture). It might be nice to think that there is a journey from certainty to uncertainty and back to a mature certainty. Nice thought!

I actually think the critical part of the journey is from certainty to uncertainty… and to a new place (and space) of openness. Not open to any wind that blows, but open in the context of non-defensiveness, humility, and less motivated by an anxiety to nail things down. Actually a healthy place to get to.

I know less now than I knew years ago. But I know more about myself, understand more about others, and although I still try to squeeze God into my perfectly formed box I am aware that there is a mystery in God and s/he is more outside my box than inside. A God I have found (cos s/he found me) so I have to on a daily basis get on my proverbial bike and go in search of the elusive God who is present everywhere.

Adding to Holy Writ

I like to write my own scriptures. I guess we all do a bit of that when we choose the ones we like and ignore the others. I am certainly guilty as charged. But I am not referring to my propensity to pick and choose, but to the times I see a text that is not there, but I think should be.

I mentioned one recently in a post, ‘owning everything but possessing nothing’. I made that up but I think it is pretty biblical, and (sorry Paul) more relevant to me than his inspired version of ‘owning nothing but possessing everything’. It is kind of the reverse of what is there, or better the mirror image. So here is another one drawn from Heb. 11 (thanks to Priscilla?):

Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

I think the writer would be happy to have that Scripture applied to the others in Hebrews 11 also. The ongoing voice of those who lived by and died in faith. Faith has a voice for Paul says (good to quote a male voice to balance the female voice above?):

Since we have that same spirit ofc faith,i we also believe and therefore speak (2 Cor. 4: 13).

So the made up mirror text reads something like this:

They though alive are not speaking.

That first makes the Hebrew writer’s words very powerful. Having a voice though having died. Second, it puts in contrast the tragedy of not speaking.

The creative act began with, ‘and God said’. True speech is more than words, it is deeply personal. It comes from somewhere / someone. It carries somehow substance.

A number of years ago I was looking for a recording I had of something I had been teaching, to make a copy for someone. I found the box, the disks were not labelled and I pulled out the one I thought was the right one. I pushed play. It wasn’t me on the recording, but Sue. She had passed away a year or so earlier. I instantly knew her voice, and her ‘presence’ filled the room. It was one of the most scary memories I have to date (and sacred memories too).

The sheep follow him because they know his voice (Jn. 10:4). The voice that brings the presence, the substance of God.

The first prophet in Scripture that Jesus refers to was Abel (Lk. 11:50,51). Yet Abel did not prophesy as far as we have it recorded. He spoke… His life, his actions they spoke.

He (they) being dead still speak. The list in Hebrews does not record what they said, but it does record that they spoke.

It is possible to say things, oh ever so possible to say so, so much. To say so many good, biblical words, to be extremely clever, even wise… But to speak? Maybe that is what we need to learn. To stop talking and to speak.

I seem to have, as far as we can test, a sound discrimination issue. This is not a lack of hearing, but a difficulty, a confusion in distinguishing what I hear. True physically which is a bit of a bug in the system when it comes to language. A while back I was listening to a recording in Spanish and a person said a common phrase, ‘todos las veces’ (every time). It made no sense to me so I played it back four times and eventually asked Gayle why are they using a phrase that means nothing in this context, ‘all the mushrooms’ (todas las setas)!!!

But what is a much bigger system bug is not to discriminate what we hear from heaven. God speaks and my discrimination is such that I repeat ‘mushrooms’! No answers in the comments please as to how many times I have done that!

The lasting impact of speech, true speech is presence. When I heard Sue’s voice it was her substance, who she was that impacted me. When God speaks it is the substance / presence of God that is the lasting impact.
There is a reason why there are those who have died but still speak. It is to do with their substance. There is a reason why there are those who are alive but do not speak. It is tied to their substance, who they are.

Light came from a voice. Substance came from the source of all substance, the speech was simply the bridge it came across.

Words can be cheap. True speech is not cheap. It comes from the substance of a life.

So I like to make up my own scriptures. I think one might even be biblical. I think Priscilla would approve.

Time to re-boot?

Valuing the arts?

Fatima (in the image above) apparently needs to re-boot (literally). Little does she realise that the ballerina shoes probably need to come off, and she needs to find a career that has much more value! Following Rishi Sunak’s (Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK) advice that those in the arts should consider new careers, together with a helpful site that once the questions are answered comes back with the ideal career to re-train for, apparently suggested to Dame Judy Dench that she could switch careers and enter the scaffolding business!

Lest I be accused of being the conveyor of ‘fake news’, I am aware the UK government has backtracked on the adverts, and… and… BUT in a time of genuine reboot for society it is interesting that there has already been concerted attempts over the past 3-5 years against the media; and post attacks on the media there will always be a focus on other areas. Of course there is such a thing as ‘fake news’ but whenever the news challenges the status quo ruling party not all of it can nor should be written off as ‘fake’. That is something we have been able to, previously, label against the suppressed media in communist lands, and now I am not surprised that there is a weakening of the value of the arts. The arts are VITAL for the re-imagining of the future.

In the coming year I have been informed that China will move forward one year, but the West (centred in USA and Europe) will move back 6. In one year a 7 year gap will appear. This is all part of the move that is from West to East and North to South, a global rebalancing (necessary)… and a global unbalancing (beyond challenging) at the same time. Meanwhile there is a focus on issues such as law and order in parts of the West. The situation, as I see it, is that there are huge flaws being exposed. When the same news network that espouses family values, came to the UK with a policy of shifting the working class mindset toward the political right the policy adopted was anything but family! Thankfully society is not so corrupt that eventually a cry rose up about the daily image on page 3. (For those outside the UK, sadly making the reference above explicit, a topless scantily dressed young woman.)

A media that is controlled – and that begins by labelling what is not favourable as ‘false’; rhetoric from the centre that does not challenge violence will only result in violence on the streets (militia) some 5-6 years later – witness Ruanda of the 60s or Germany of the 30s; and an arts that is devalued and there is a recipe that will only accelerate the demise of what was good. There are nations with better foundations than others, but even those that claim ‘Christian’ foundations (an oxymoron) had a number who were deists not theists as the shapers of the foundations. There are major exposures of foundations at this time… To silence the media and to sidetrack the arts, might slow the exposure… but the process is under way.

Ownership

Owning but not possessing

As having nothing, yet possessing everything
(2 Cor. 6:10).

Those words are challenging, from the one who wrote that though poor he was making many rich. Fast forward, and I guess many of us are nearer to ‘owning everything’ and so I suggest we need to do a little reversal of the above:

As owning everything, but possessing nothing.

Our relationship to what we own, now there is a challenge. ‘It’s mine and don’t touch’ just does not cut it for those who follow Paul as he followed Christ. ‘It’s mine and I am going to steward it’ is a major step forward, provided stewardship does not remain in the realm of control.

GIFT. That seems how God operates. He gives. Gift is not charity, though there are many times we need to be respond with ‘charity’, increasingly so as so many have lost jobs and accommodation, and at times with no questions asked. But gift is something beyond that. It is given freely to help a person toward their destiny. Given without guarantee of something coming back personally, even though given with prayer and consideration.

The Jericho principle. At the point of entry to the land that was abundant gift the people received an instruction that was not repeated later. TAKE NOTHING, DO NOT PROFIT at all from the conquest of Jericho. We know the issue that ensued through Achan’s disobedience.

At the point of entry a strong decision not to profit is I believe very key. This has shaped me over years when making an entry to a place. I try to find what I might have profited from and then not touch it. For example, and such a small issue, not to profit from any books sold in another nation, not to receive royalties, nor an author’s fee. (Not being in the John Grisham league there is no need to be impressed!)

So up to date. A couple of days ago while we were praying over our re-entry to Madrid as to when and how, we were given a very helpful prophetic word over a zoom call from someone who knew nothing about our prayers and deliberations. This put a pause button to our plans. Then a couple of days later we were put in touch with a Colombian-born woman who we had never met who was losing her accommodation at the end of September and needed a place for 3-4 months. Owning everything…

Paying attention to any check in our spirits (not paying attention to the ‘what if’ questions in the mind), we knew that we cannot own everything and possess it as well. Keys in post. A gift to her… a small contribution to her destiny.

Yesterday one of really good friends and neighbours had his birthday. We had the afternoon together. He freaked out (not good on your birthday) when he found what we had done. His wife explaining that he finds it very hard to trust people.

Our gift to him? We believe in people, their destiny. And we believe in him and his destiny.

It takes time when the paradigm is one of witnessing not evangelising (yes there is a chapter in Humanising the Divine on that, but you all know that cos you have all bought a copy – right?!!!!). But the time witnessing takes is so important. A relationship is built and it is not one-way.

We do our small part, and you do yours, and together we can own but not possess so that what we do not own we can possess.

A little closer

A few days ago Gayle and I went away for a few days. Those times have often been very fruitful with time to reflect, question, and pray. For sure the COVID lockdown has been good for us from the perspective of reflection. A while back I had (and thankfully still have) a connection with Authentic Business, who have an approach that is very people focused. Change is focused on the personal not the structural. One of the exercises they engage clients in involves discovering core process. So Gayle and I did this together.

It basically involves recounting three happy stories, then from them pulling out verbs that describe action involved in the stories and then nouns. Eventually it is narrowed down to one verb and one noun. Our process took us a couple of days, not constant, but ruminating. At the end of the two days we settled on (different) core process descriptions. It really had quite an impact.

It is great to be a little closer to discovering why one is on the planet (no need to say, ‘and you were born in 1955, what have you been doing all this time?’). Yes takes a little longer for some of us than others.

The three stories were very interesting for me. Gayle could pull out as many as you wish, I got to one story and couldn’t think of another one! The tendency was to pull on ‘when God did this’ kind of response, reflecting more a need to feel significant than discovering the happy time! With her help one of the stories I managed to get to was when she said – what about the time the police with armed rifle insisted on moving you on when you entered the zone they were guarding at the Congress building that had the barriers up? You came back from that bouncing with happiness.

What a great moment. I remember it well and it still brings a good smile to my face. The day I helped the police man be a good law-enforcing officer. My calling in life – or close to it.

Anyway… the verb I came up with was ‘provoking’. Gayle had the same verb.

A Taster

Been a while since I have posted here. I have been writing… Just completed the fourth of a proposed six-series set of book(lets). Below is the opening paragraphs, followed by the closing paragraphs, from the third volume and a chapter entitled, ‘A necessary chapter’. This volume seeks to engage with some practical areas of society, so the first chapter was on the Arts, others are on Health and Education, Business (as Unusual) and the Media.


A chapter on the arts was a nice gentle way to highlight how any communication needs more than words to bring about change. In that chapter I said that art has often been commodified, becoming the collector’s piece, sometimes because of a deep appreciation of the art but often because of the perceived investment value. One piece bought for monetary reasons while other artists, who put their heart and soul into something (not to mention many hours), cannot make a living from their gift to society. It leads me to this chapter, a necessary one, on money, work and value.
The archaeologists report that between the 10th and the 8th century BC there were many economic changes in the land of Israel. Over those two centuries a huge discrepancy grows between the size of houses. We might view it that prosperity abounded and that this was evidence as to how God had blessed, but the 8th century prophets viewed it very differently. This is the rise of the critical voices of the prophets who connected social inequality to a faithlessness to the covenant. A poignant example is in Amos 4:1-4,

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness:
“The time will surely come
when you will be taken away with hooks,
the last of you with fishhooks.
You will each go straight out
through breaches in the wall,
and you will be cast out toward Harmon,”
declares the Lord.
Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years.

Continuing to tithe and sacrifice in the appointed way was exposed as a farce as there was no justice, no semblance of an egalitarian society. In the life of Israel the law stipulated an intentional levelling through the system of Sabbath, the seventh year Sabbath and a radical Jubilee every fiftieth year when there was a reboot to the whole of society.

Before wading in to some of these major issues a gentle proviso that I will try and pick up in a later chapter. The gentle proviso is, ‘but we have to be practical.’ Agreed! We are not looking for something that is perfect for we wait for the day ‘when the perfect comes’; we live in a fallen world and in that world we have to learn how to compromise. The compromises that we are to be involved in though are to be redemptive. Redemption does not bring us to perfection in the immediate but re-aligns us so that there is a before and an after, so that we are not left the same, and the after is better than the before. Jesus quoted the Scripture that ‘the poor you will have with you always’ (John 12:8 quoting Deut. 15: 11), and that surely is true.

However, we cannot use it as if Jesus intended us to be unmoved or inactive about inequalities. The Scripture that Jesus quoted, Deut. 15: 11 says:

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

There is a reality that there will always be those who experience poverty, and in the light of that there has to be a spirit of generosity, for such was the commandment God gave them. The wider passage exhorts us to be generous, to cancel debts, to help liberate and to truly work toward the goal of eradicating poverty.

The gospel sets out the eschatological focus, and then deals with the present in both real and redemptive terms. It does not call us to live with a utopian vision, nor does it allow us to be passive. The ekklesia is present in the world to bring about change, and we are in a world that is all-but a runaway train hellbent on destruction. The original sin of consumerism, of moving boundaries for personal gain has to be addressed. This chapter is focused on money (or maybe better put as Mammon), but it could equally address the ecological crisis which is yet another sign that we have, as a race, been consistently moving boundary markers for personal gain.

………

The age to come, the one we are preparing for, and the one that we are preparing the materials for, will not be an age when there will be segregation along financial lines. Yet this age has increasingly sown into that financial divide. In closing this chapter, one that had to be written, let me simply ask how we should best sow into that glorious future. If I am privileged to own my own house should I pursue an even bigger stake in bricks and mortar? Should I look to store up more for myself with a pension scheme that will only increase the money distortions of society? Should I look to leave money to my descendants so that they might have the potential of moving further up the scale than I was able to?

Hard questions? Or looking at the reality that there is an age to come and how should we live in that light of that?

What remains clear is the concept of simply encouraging believers to rise to the top 3% of the mountain of influence without any critique of the existence of the ‘mountain’, could indeed release an influence, but the influence might not be an influence for the kingdom. The mountain remaining is not a signpost of the age to come.

We do not live in a perfect world and we await the age to come. While living in the in-between time, while we inhabit this imperfect world, we have to make compromises, yet we cannot simply compromise while refusing to look at the issues that pollute our world. Mammon and consumerism have been here since the beginning, but will not be here at the end. We live in between those two points. If we allow ourselves to be dragged back then, for sure, we are not of those who are contributing to the transformation of this world, and the preparation of the next.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!