This summer at all of the Life Teen Summer Camps, the hosts have been walking through the Beatitudes. The first Life Teen week, I was able to sit in on all of the sessions and was deeply challenged by the truths that the host was sharing as he talked about poverty, justice and what we are really called to as Christians. (Thanks Gomer!) The Spirit began stirring in me and in Erik, and we decided that we needed to really examine our lives, our lifestyle, and our understanding of our call as Christians to live in solidarity with the poor.
As missionaries have always tried to live simply, but as with anything, over time (especially while living in the U.S.) we become more and more comfortable, and it is easy to justify extras. Soon our conviction to live in solidarity with the poor is compromised by settling with a lifestyle that is just a little more simple than that of the others around us . . . not exactly the definition of Gospel poverty!
We have both read the book “Happy Are You Poor” by Thomas Dubay in the past, but felt the urge to revisit it, and ask the Lord to give us a clearer understanding of how He is calling us to live Gospel poverty as a missionary family that finds ourselves in the mission field of our home country at this time and not necessarily in the presence of the poorest of the poor. We started reading it together a week or two before leaving for Ghana. It is beautiful and challenging and is causing us to confront some serious injustices in our lives.
The other day we were convicted as we read:
“ . . . it is not enough to give of our superfluities to the needy of our world. We are to give even from our need…If we love our brother as ourselves, and if he suffers a more radical need than we, surely we will relieve his dire necessity from our lesser one. The real problem is not in the logic of the matter; it is whether we actually love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Have I ever honestly given out of my own need? Do I even attempt to lessen the gap between the needs of my brother and the comforts of my own life? Do I really love my neighbor as I love myself, or am I just giving lip service?
I can honestly say that there are very few times, if any, that I have really truly given to others out of my actual need. Sure, I may have thought that I was at the time, but I believe as Americans our perspective on what is an actual need and what is a want is very skewed, and whether I like it or not, I am a product of our culture. The challenge is to live in God’s truth and not the world’s.
I want to love my neighbor as I love myself. I desire to live a radical life of gospel poverty, not for poverty’s sake, but so that I can be free with a readiness to respond to whatever it is that the Lord asks of me.
Jesus, help us to see the world through Your eyes. Give us Your heart to love our neighbor as You love. Give us the grace to live a life in solidarity with the poor even to the point of giving out of our own need. Help us to choose Your way above the world’s.