The Flat Kingdom

I’m really struggling with what it means to be with the poor. I grew up never really thinking about it. There were poor people and that sucked but I cared about where I was. As I grew in my faith and my friends and environment started to change I noticed a trend of it being cool to love the poor. Poor people was where it was at. We started to focus on the many verses where Jesus talked and admired the poor. We started to realize how close the poor people were to Jesus’ message of the good news. It became a hot topic. We talked about it, ran conferences about it and eventually I found myself living among the poorer neighborhoods of Sarnia. The question that still lingers is why? Sure we know what. For some reason our society and faith can always tell us what we need to do. So we know that we should be with the poor. So now I’m starting to wonder and understand why.

What do poor people got that the wealthy folk don’t? Well I’m sure we could all list a bunch of great spiritual answers to that like simplicity, the Sabbath, community and they are all important. But I feel like anyone with money can attain all these same things. It’s easier for poor people maybe to get them, but wealthy people aren’t absent of them.

I think the secret lies in that there is no secret. Poor people aren’t better than rich people. Poor people don’t have a secret access to the Kingdom that rich people can’t get to. That is what is so surprising though. We are always looking for the right kind of people to be around. There is no special person that has a better chance than anyone else. Some people say that if you don’t have poor friends well then you’re not following Jesus. I just can’t buy it.

I think what Jesus was doing was undermining the system that said that those without money were less human than those with money. He wasn’t creating new classes that said the poor are the best and powerful and the rich are the outcasts. He created a system that said there was no powerful anymore besides God, there was no rich or poor or male or female. He did it with money, health and power. The point was never to take the people at the bottom and make them rich, powerful and healthy later on so that they get their turn to have all the perks. The point was to say that no matter where you find yourself, with money or without it, with power or health or without it, you are still valuable and you are still human and you deserve to be treated the same as everyone else and God still loves you.

It sucks to say, but I don’t think that moving downtown to where the poor people are at is going to make you any more of a Christian or any closer to following Jesus. It’s not where you are and who you are with, but how you treat and love those people wherever you are. We tend to pedestalize people who are doing either what we wish we had the guts to do or whatever our bubble says is cool and holy. It sucks because we are falling into the same traps that we hated and pulled away from. Instead of going to bible studies every week, it’s moving near the poor. Instead of going to church every Sunday it’s getting a bus pass to save the enviroment. Instead of buying only Christian music it’s not shopping at Wal Mart. We’ve created another list of righteous and unrighteous things to do and we judge people on whether they do them or not.

I’m tired of jumping on one band wagon after another. Judging people by where they shop, live or how they spend their money. I think it’s time that we learned to treat and love humans as humans no matter what class, race or gender. Rachel and I are not living in this ‘poor neighborhood’ because there is something spectacular about this place. We’re not living here because we want to look cool for moving downtown. We are not living here because God told us to or there is something more spiritual about it. We are living here because it didn’t matter to us where we lived. We are living here because people are people in the rich areas, nice areas or poor areas and this house was a good deal.

5 Comments

  • There are things about the kingdom of God that I can only learn from a seventy-two year old grandmother. There are things about the kingdom of God that I can only learn from a toddler. There are things about the kingdom of God that I can only learn from the guy who lost his high school sweet heart and landed in alcoholism. There are things about the kingdom of God that I can only learn from those aren’t sure where the rent is coming from for next month, just as there are things I can only learn from the multi-millionaire.

    I totally agree; the worth of a human being is inherently equal across the board…and, how can this equality/worth of an individual not affect my choice to [for example] shop at Wal-Mart? Isn’t knowledge of offense toward the dignity of others suppose to inform what I believe is right or wrong? (How I choose to judge others is another issue altogether.)

  • It’s not that I think choosing to not shop at Wal Mart is a bad decision. I fully respect anyone who chooses to do so. I also though realize that there are two sides of the issue and that to pick one side of the issue and determine that its the only right way for everyone else in the world and that the other side can’t be redeemed (without going to the other side) is creating a new set of standards of being holy. It’s clinging on so hard to ‘our side’ that we forget the other side is human is where I have the problem, not having a side.

  • There is something about the arrogant, ignorant, one tracked mind fool I respect. They have made a choice and as ignorant as they may look – They believe it. You could even say that they are solid in their faith.

    Is that right? I dont know, probably no, but things get done.

  • Nathan,

    Congrats on marriage. I appreciate this string of thought, especially for what is happening right now with the buzz over Claiborne and Wallis. Being missional and living with the poor is definitely “cool” right now.

    But I want to offer another possibility. Poor people have less capacity to hide behind a plastic persona that comes from wealth. They have genuine needs that are present most days. Rich people can hide that fact most days. BMWs and pretty homes create the illusion of having it all. Their power is in our assumption that they are fine and dandy.

    I think Jesus invited us into helping the poor because love had the greatest capacity to be present in areas of need. Simply feeding people or speaking to their dignity can be incredibly powerful in creating community.

    But the hidden element, I believe, is that we need community and there are just more poor people (normal everyday working class people trying to get by) than there are elite, rich snobs.

  • hey nathan,
    i enjoyed the post. would love to chat more in person…maybe grab a coffee?
    you out this way before mid june?
    and congrats on the wedding!

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