Steve Graybill, a member of the ‘Tension Dwellers Anonymous’ group from Washington D.C. shared this story of a need they were able to meet:
A number of years ago I read Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change. This book asks two simple questions: What are the biggest problems in the world today? and What does Jesus say about these problems? As followers of Christ who proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is here.” these are questions that we need to ask ourselves on a daily basis. Moreover, we need to do more than ask the question; we need to find solutions.
As I begin to answer the first question, I find myself quickly overwhelmed to the point where I feel powerless because of what seems to be an endless list of problems: HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in my home city of Washington DC not to mention the issue of HIV/AIDS worldwide; There are close to 6000 homeless people in my home City of Washington DC; There is an oppressive occupation in Israel and Palestine, myriad wars around the world that destroy life, oppressive justice systems that put people to death rather than recognizing that our Father is a father of restoration and reconciliation; Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day, there are multitudes without clean drinking water on our planet and there are 30 million people either in slavery or sexually trafficked or both. And all of this just scratches the surface.
At the start of this year I was in a rut spiritually; angry at God for all of these injustices that are taking place in his creation. I was also frustrated that I could not solve all these problems—I am not God after all. To be honest, I am still angry at the injustices that we see each day and I still often want to point the finger at God. However, as I entered this Lenten season and decided to only drink water and coffee for my liquids—difficult for someone who loves Gatorade and likes to enjoy a daily beer or two or three—things began to shift for me.
First off, I had the thought that perhaps the enemy wants us to answer the first question that McLaren asks in his book and actually think that it is our responsibility to solve all of those problems individually. The enemy does this because it knows that by doing so we will be rendered helpless knowing full well that we are just not capable of that and therefore we will just dwell on those problems in our head and never take any action whatsoever.
Second, I was reminded of a couple of rather pithy statements and 1 Corinthians 12, which discusses spiritual gifts and that each of us has a role to play. I recall Shane Claiborne sharing a brief story of someone confronting God with the question: “Why don’t you do something about all this suffering in the world?” To which God responds: “I did! I made you!” Of course that can easily put one back with taking all of the troubles of the world on their own shoulders, but then I was reminded another pithy statement: “Do for one what you would like to do for many.”
The beauty in doing for one what you would like to do for many is that it requires relationship—generally you must know one person to help one person—when you look at the actions of Jesus we find that he often focuses on doing something for one person, and he does that through personal interaction. This is how Common Change works.
Our Common Change group recently had our quarterly dinner gathering. Essentially, we are a group of 5 affluent westerners—one of us is a South African transplant. During this dinner that took place the first week of Lent I was amazed and challenged by the community we had in discussing the challenges of being the hands and feet of Christ. As affluent white people we did not see ourselves as the saviors but felt the conviction of being the oppressors. We also shared the difficulties and challenges of creating relationships outside of our economic strata. Most of all though, we felt that we were a community and felt that we were the church during that time—there was richness and depth to our gathering that I have rarely experienced. I love the epigraph on my friend Valerie Anderson’s email which I think describes our group well: “We are not thinking our way into a new way of acting but acting our way into a new way of thinking.”
Just this week we were able to meet the need of a friend of ours through our Common Change Group. My wife and I did a homeless challenge last summer where we spent 72 hours living on the streets to experience what it is like to be homeless. During the evening you have a homeless or formerly homeless “guide” who essentially stays awake the entire night so that you can sleep and not have to worry about being mugged. Steve Thomas was one of those guides for us. Recently we saw through Facebook that he needed a walker because of health issues that affect his mobility. We reached out and talked to him. The walker is currently in a box in our dining room waiting to be assembled and we have plans to deliver it this Monday while we share a meal with our friend Steve and our other Common Change group members.
We will have done for one what we would like to do for many!