Sunday, August 7, 2011

Community: Problem solving or problem sharing? Or solidarity?

In my last post I cited some great points made by Tim Gombis. Gombis says that sometimes churches don't quite live as communities of the cross: "They imagine that the problem is the problem.  After all, churches aren’t supposed to have problems or challenges, just as individual Christians are supposed to have perfect lives.  If there’s something wrong, then there’s something wrong!"

I have some further thoughts on this.

Because of my work and ministry I have been involved in quite a few Christian communities and churches. I am concerned when the more vulnerable members of those communities are hurt or going through a difficult time. For others, these vulnerable members are the ones who have “problems”. Often sincere and committed Christians try to help them by their "problem-solving" skills, as if there are always formulas to tackle the “problems” in people’s lives. Sometimes this works. But I would prefer problem-sharing rather than problem-solving (if we insist on using the term “problem”). If we stand in solidarity with those who are hurting and those going through hard times, and if the first thing we do is to listen and share their pain, then we are on a journey together to deal with the issues that causes the hurt and pain.

I think that’s what Jesus did when he was on earth. He walked life’s journeys with his fellow human beings. He showed us what it means to be truly human – that is, someone who is willing to share the pain, suffering and injustice in this world. Yes, he taught us how to live wisely. Yes, he taught us to pray. Yes, he spoke of God's judgment and God’s love. And so should we teach others. But his message is about God’s upside-down kingdom (or right-way-up kingdom, from his perspective). It is about “those who are first will be last, and those who are last will be first”. It is about self-giving and solidarity with the poor and oppressed. I think this is where the apostle Paul gets it right – God’s wisdom is found in the crucified Christ. And it is in the crucified Christ and risen Lord that we see God's power manifest.

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