How can we wholeheartedly welcome the marginalised in our communities?
This is the question that Craig Greenfield addresses in the next section of his book ‘Subversive Jesus’ and it’s a question that I also find myself asking.
Craig begins this chapter by sharing how he discovered the deeper yearning of his new community, through sleeping on the streets of Downtown Eastside Vancouver.
“…we learned that if the bad news of the inner city was rejection, isolation, and loneliness, the good news might look something like radical hospitality. We realized that Jesus would welcome these folks inside – not just into a drop-in center or shelter but into a family.”
Discovering the true needs and issues of a community takes intentionality and time. Moving into the neighbourhood you hope to serve allows you to dig deeper and find the roots of the problems.
Through living here in Soshanguve, we have been able to hear the stories of pain and hurt and experience some of the frustrations. If we were to commute in each day we would be regarded as visitors or tourists. But by residing here our neighbours have begun to see our love for the community and our heart to learn and walk alongside them.
Craig describes how he stumbles through ways to show radical hospitality to his neighbours. Through the relationships he makes on the streets he develops a deeper sense of the underlying sources of their pain.
“I realized that our battle was not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers – addiction, affluence, rejection, injustice, apathy – that held this city and its inhabitants in chains.”
As Craig argues, through our privilege or hindrances, we are all captive to these powers. We have to ask ourselves, how can we work with Jesus in bringing freedom to us all? Craig and the community decided to open up their home and their table to invited the locals to join them. This created a space where each guest felt loved, valued and cherished. It was a place where Jesus’ subversive upside-down kingdom could flourish.
Due to the history in South Africa I’m often seen as a person with privilege and money because of the colour of my skin. The reality is that I’m face to face with the advantages that my upbringing has given me. Many of our neighbours have a number of barriers restricting access to resources and relationships that could help them achieve their hopes. The question I constantly ask myself is how can I use my experiences, connections and abilities to support the community without disempowering?
I didn’t choose to be brought up in privilege and I’m thankful for the upbringing I had. We shouldn’t feel guilty about our foundations but instead use our assets to help those in need. This is summed up nicely in a quote from Dr John M. Perkins in his book ‘Beyond Charity’:
“The desire for a peaceful life-style, a reasonable amount of financial security, and a healthy community environment are God-given desires. If the love of God dwells in us, then the Holy Spirit will prompt us more and more to be concerned that everyone will have those desires met. We will not be content to live in comfort while others suffer; instead, we will try to use our resources in ways that will enable all God’s children to have their basic needs met.” (emphasis mine)
This is a continued reflection on the book Subversive Jesus by Craig Greenfield. To start at the beginning go to part one.