People fascinate me. No, not the glossed over edited versions of people. You know, the kind you see on TV or read about in the gossip rags. I am interested in real people. Whether they are doing well or struggling with the challenges that face us all, I am intrigued by the way they live through those difficulties. What might seem to one person an insurmountable setback, is for another a mere bump in the road. And they choose to celebrate life anyway, making the best out of what seems to be impossible circumstances. It is easy for those with greater material means to unwittingly look condescendingly at those who are less fortunate financially. Or are they? Sure they have less in the natural. But how do we explain the greater joy and peace that some who are relatively poor have in comparison to those who seem to have all they could ever need? To be sure, this is not always true. Those with less often can be just as materialistic or stressed about their situation as their more wealthy counterparts. Yet, as I minister in the culture where God has located me, I can’t help but notice that it is often those who have least in the natural who model best Jesus’ ethic of selflessness. Maybe this was part of Jesus’ motivation when he told the rich young ruler to sell everything he has, give the proceeds to the poor, and then follow him. The wealthy young man had knowledge. He had material possessions, and thus, one assumes, the means to help tremendously the cause of Christ. Yet, Jesus told him to get rid of it. He told him to become poor. He emphasized that he should enter the world on Jesus’s terms, and on the terms of those to who Jesus mostly ministered throughout his travels.
Is it possible that despite the rich young ruler’s correct grasp of the law and prophets, that he missed the point of the gospel, given his reluctance to part with his wealth in favor of material poverty, yet relational connection to Jesus? What does this imply for us today? Is it relevant? How does this inform our view of material possessions? Of giving? Of entering the world of those God has called us to reach on their terms, rather than attempting to import our lifelong cultural sensibilities, not least our view of money and possessions, into their world, thereby missing the point of the Gospel?
Think on these things as you enter the world where God has placed you. Don’t assume you know how they think or feel, or that you comprehend the motives of their actions. Enter their world. Listen. Observe. Become a student of those who can teach you best about the realities which face them. And be prepared to be humbled and broken as you realize that your own brokenness matches or exceeds theirs, and that as you acknowledge this, they will be there to cry and listen and be real with you. On your terms. Just as you have been there for them. Welcome to your initial foray into the missional life.