When caring people encounter poverty--when we see "the poor," our first instinct is to provide some kind of relief.
If a person is hungry, the remedy is a meal.
If a person is cold or hot and homeless, the remedy is immediate shelter.
If a person is far from home or lost on the road, the remedy might be clear directions or a bus ticket back to loved ones.
Relief is important. It is necessary. Good Samaritans are needed in greater numbers, to be sure.
The problem is, we often stall out at relief. We find it harder, sometimes impossible to take the next step or to move over into a new area of work when it comes to bringing long-term renewal to people who live in poverty.
Renewal is so much more comprehensive. It involves large systemic realities. Renewal calls for extended commitments. Renewal cannot happen apart from complicated, human relationships and movement.
Whereas, relief work can be exciting, straightforward, conveniently packaged and easily quantified (as in, "How many meals did we serve today, Fred?"), the work of renewal can be messy, hard, depressing, halting and not so easily measured as to effectiveness.
Often, funding relief efforts is easier than finding support for the longer play of renewal.
Renewal efforts take us places we never have been before to enter partnerships we never would have dreamed of! The renewal of life among the poor can become controversial, expensive and challenging.
Relief can be turned on and turned off.
Renewal involves a much deeper commitment.
Relief is often about individuals.
Those who work hard in the area of genuine renewal quickly learn that success is found most often in the midst of community and collaboration.
Relief is necessary because of the harshness of life at times.
Renewal is even more important. And, high quality relief work will always lead on to opportunities for individual and community renewal.
The Good Samaritan asked no questions when he picked up the wounded stranger on the Jericho road. That is the nature of relief.
But for renewal to set in, someone must ask tough questions--questions about why others found it so easy to simply pass by on the way to church, questions about what made the road so treacherous in the first place, questions about how to avoid such misfortune going forward.
Compassion leads us to relieve the pain of our fellows whenever and however we can. This same compassion should root us in a commitment to justice that sweeps us into the harder work of renewal among and with "the poor."
Announcement from Duke Memorial UMC
2 weeks ago