During these past two days, Shane Claiborne has been our house guest. It has been a wonderful time of sharing conversation and meals together, picking his brain on community living, and him being hospitable enough to allow us to do so. I must say, I have not been moved by the fact I am in such close proximity to an author, public speaker, and renowned voice in the Christian community. A celebrity, of sorts--a lanky, dread-locked, and humble as all can be celebrity, but celebrity nonetheless. Rather, I am moved by being so close to someone who lives with the poor: who intentionally directs his life and deeds towards them, obediently going where Christ would have us go, to where Christ, the Crucified Son of God, is. I am moved because I do not go to the poor. I do not orient my life towards them. I live with that exact mindset: "me" versus "them", "us" versus "those people over there". Don't get me wrong--I care deeply for the poor. I care about their well-being. I am outspoken against unjust political and religious systems that oppress the poor. I pray for the poor--that God would be with them. On occasion, I'll even visit the poor, converse with the poor, break bread with the poor.
I live in a tightly-knit, loving, and faithful community, who also pray for, visit, and care about the poor. I often find myself so thankful that I share life with such people--people who listen, people who care, people who love. People who, at times, burn with a righteous anger at injustice, and who will bravely orient themselves against the Powers That Be to stand on the side of forgotten. People who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and who are constantly praying that God will continually move us to participate in the Kingdom. I live with these people, I work with these people, and I play with these people. These people are my family, and I believe that we, despite all our faults and failures, are a "community"--which is a wonderful, beautiful, Godly thing.
The early church lived in community; they, too, shared live and broke bread together. They were an extension of Christ's Body to the world. They lived out the Gospel, the Good News of Christ: that God has come in Christ, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. The world is redeemed to God--the gates to the city have been flung wide open, and everyone--everyone, everyone, everyone--can come in. The radical element of the Gospel is not only that the Kingdom is come, but that it is extended to the poor. To the outcast, the prisoners, the slaves, the women, the Gentiles, the broken, the sick, the disabled, the forgotten, the tortured, the poor. When we follow Christ, we follow Christ out into the world, and Christ goes to the poor.
Maybe it's a little harsh to say that I don't live out the Gospel because the poor are not a part of my community. Maybe it's a little harsh to say that the members my church, my community, my family, look a little too much like themselves to be radical. Maybe I just have to trust that its ok--that it takes time to completely change the way we've been raised to live, that the Spirit will move us in that direction when we're ready. Then I think of those in Scripture who approached Christ about participating in the Kingdom, about following His beckoning call. I think of the Rich Young Ruler, who owned so many things that gave him value in this world, he could not conceive of a life more abundant without them. I think of the young man who wanted to wait to bury his father before he followed Christ, who wanted to make sure that his decision would not negatively affect his family, his community.
People in my demographic are often compared to the rich young ruler, as we have grown up in a world that offers us abundance at our fingertips. An abundance we've grown dependent on, that we cannot conceive of a life without it. But, sometimes, I wonder if I am more like the son who wanted to wait to bury his father, who wants to make sure that things move slowly and carefully, so that no one gets hurt in the process. I wonder if I'm like the one who wanted more time to decide, who could not up and leave everything, who wanted to feel prepared. But Christ would have him drop everything and follow Him: follow Him to the Cross, follow Him to the poor. And there is not enough time in the world that could prepare us for such a decision.
So, like many, I am thankful to have Shane, a wonderfully pleasant, kind, gentle man--and a celebrity. I am thankful to have met him, because I am graced by the presence of one who has sought the presence of Christ among the poor, and has found so much joy, love and life there. I pray for the strength, courage, and grace to listen to the whisperings of God like that, even though all that is within me screams, "No, not yet! Let me bury my father, and I will follow You."