Musings /Part 4/ on the Practices of a Resurrection (Expansive) Spirituality
Therefore Adonai himself
will give you people a sign:
the young woman* will become pregnant,
bear a son and name him ‘Immanu El [God is with us].
Isaiah 7:1 (CJB)
[Complete Jewish Bible, Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved.]
Samuel Wells begins his engaging book (A Nazareth Manifesto) about Christian witness and mission with a remarkably astute observation:
“I maintain that the word with [emphasis mine]
is the most important word in theology.” (p.11)
God is experienced as a presence, a “with-ness.” The covenant with Israel is about God’s being with Israel and Israel’s hanging in there with God. Immanuel. Yeshua is God’s pre-emptive with-ness. The church is about the followers of Yeshua hanging in there with the ever-present with-ness of Yeshua, his continuing mission, and his teachings. It is about our being with one another and with the whole of the created order.
Wells describes the with-ness as over against for-ness. His discussion continues with the description of “four broad ways” that Christian witness and mission might respond to issues such as poverty:
I agree in general with Wells, but reverse the priority of being for and being with.
Working-For – This is the easiest form of Christian witness in mission. We donate our excess clothes and serve meals at the local s
Working-With – This requires a greater investment from us, an investment of some degree of relationship. Probably the best example is Habitat for Humanity when the recipient(s) of the house works (sweat equity) side-by-side with those who are donating their time and energy for this significant project.
These first two alternatives demonstrate the majority witness in mission for those engaged with a Crucifixion Spirituality. [See Two Types of Spirituality] http://wp.me/p6Keys-hS The next two are more oriented to a Resurrection (Expansive) Spirituality. This is not meant to denigrate working-for or working-with. Those forms of witness in mission, which have predominated throughout church history, have accomplished great things. But there is something more. (There always to be something more!)
Being-With – Yeshua was particularly adept at being with. He was fully present with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). He was at the dinner in the home of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7) but fully with the woman of the streets who intruded upon that gathering to bathe his feet with her tears. While many had tried to be for the sick man at the Pool of Bethsaida (John 5), Yeshua was with him enough to be able to pose the question that led to his healing. This being-with “focuses much more on stillness, on disposition, on letting [the other person, who is living in poverty or facing discriminatory injustice] take the decisive steps and identify the significant issues…” This means the ability to sit with a person who is in grief, or anger, or pain, and keep your mouth shut.
While I agree with Wells that Christian witness in mission is best focused on being-with those with special needs – economically, socially, politically, religiously, environmentally – there may come a time when being-for is a genuine necessity.
Being-For – when it grows out of a deep being-with, is a confrontation of the system from within on behalf of those who are outside the power structures of the system. Bread for the World can be an example of a positive being-for. Perhaps an even better example is the mission work of base communities in Latin America. I had the privilege of attending one whose mission was to advocate for prisoners in the local jail, “some of whom are actually guilty.” Sometimes being-for is the only way to empower those we continue to be with. This combination of being-with and being-for is called solidarity. In one-on-one personal relationships it is called “I’ve got your back.”
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”
Dom Helder Camara