Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Who's saving who?

I grew up in an evangelical Christian church culture that taught me it was my duty to “bring people to the Lord.” This could be accomplished through a variety of inelegant means, including standing on street corners and handing out tracts featuring cartoon figures writhing in hell’s flames with the 5-step salvation plan on the back cover.

In better moments we served the poor in our community, but always with the caveat that our service needed to result in converts. It was their souls we were after, and if that meant filling their bellies first, that was merely a means to an end. I always felt uneasy about that even as an impressionable youth who had barely begun to form my own ideas about things. Now after years of deconstructing my childhood religion and coming to embrace my faith in a different paradigm, I am struck by the self-centeredness of those old attitudes.

As I see it now, being the very love and compassion of Christ by caring for the needy is an end in itself. Christ said we should love our neighbor. It’s that simple. He did not say, “feed your neighbor so you can get him to pray the sinner’s prayer.” And whoever made the assumption that we could “bring” anyone to Christ anyway? Seems a little self-glorifying to me.

In my experience with “Moveable Feast”, a grass-roots homeless feeding program I participate in with Queen Anne United Methodist Church in Seattle, it is quite the opposite. When I go to Pioneer Square to share some hot food with the homeless, it is in fact I who am being “brought to Christ.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes
and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you
came to visit me…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of
these brothers of mine, you did for me.
–Matthew 26
I participate in “Moveable Feast” because in the tired, bloodshot eyes and dirty, chapped hands I encounter, I am suddenly face to face and hand to hand with the very Christ. I am humbled by the great honor.

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