Genourosity

I realized something today: Practicing a Christ-like genourosity is harder than it looks.   I’d go so far as to suggest that we Christians have perfected a sort-of genourosity which is not very Christ-like at all.

I’m not saying that we aren’t genorous, on the whole.  I have been the recipient of incredible acts of kindness.  I am watching a sister in Christ walk through a difficult time, right now.  And there are people who want to help her.  But they aren’t helping her in a way that Jesus would, I think.  When I look back at my own acts of kindness, I realize that these, too, are not the sorts of things that Jesus would have done.

As I look at Jesus’ acts of kindness, one of the things I notice is that they are reckless.  When the women is about to get stoned, Jesus does not first establish a behavioral contract with her before he decides if he’ll intervene.  He doesn’t make her rescue dependent on her sinning no more.  He steps in, stops the killing before it starts, and sends her off with the expectation that she will sin no more.

There is something legitimate about not wanting to enable destructive behavior.  We are told be wise as serpents.  But is our only motivation wanting to do good?

Jesus heals people and tells them to keep a secret.  They don’t.  But Jesus does not un-doing the healing just because they don’t hold up their end of the bargain.  I suspect that most of us would.   We would tell everyone that this would be loving the person, helping them to learn that they should keep their word.   And maybe this would be half the truth.

But the other half is that we don’t want to recognize our powerlessness in these situations.  We buy into the world’s way of looking at things.  We think an action is only good if it has a good result.  We think our kindness is somehow canceled out if the other person doesn’t use it for maximum benefit.

If a thing comes with strings attached, we feel that we’ve legitimately purchased that thing.   There’s some sort-of paralell to grace itself in all this.  If grace was something that was we could earn, then the whole of life would be nothing but a transaction, a barter.

I don’t know how to live my life fully immersed in the vastness of this truth.  It would change many things in my place of work and my family and my life elsewhere…

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Genourosity”

  1. good post Jeff, very thought provoking. It is a tough one to discipline your heart and mind to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. The bible tells us to be cheerful givers, and to not give grudgingly, so do we not give if we can’t be cheerful?
    The bible both tells us to answer a fool according to his folly and also tell us not to answer a fool according to his folly.
    Right in the middle of the judging passage of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he tells us to remove the beam out of our own eye before we help someone else remove the speck of dust from theirs. Do we not then reach out to help until the beam is completely removed? And then the following verse says we should not throw our precious pearls to wild dogs and pigs who will trample over them and also tear you to pieces in the process.
    Even in the parable of the prodigal son (although I understand the passage to illustrate a different point), the father lets the son leaves and doesn’t seem to intervene or track his son down, even when the son is starving!
    Generosity is a hard thing, no doubt. The goal is what? Can our generosity have a goal? Is it our decision or within our “power” to create change or restoration? Or is our decision and our “power” simply to give, let go and let God work?

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  2. Thanks Steve outstanding points. I always appreciate your ability to see both sides of a challenging issuel like this. I’m not sure if the last couple questions were rhetorical. .. Assuming they were not, I would say “not much” to the second-to-last question, and “yes” to the last question.

    Andy Stanley spoke a few weeks ago about the reason for giving. He had a pretty compelling argument for the idea that our genourosity is really just a way to point people to God’s genourosity, and nothing more.

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