Most people who are supportive of CBM’s line of work (i.e. sharing God’s love in word and deed through the local church in the world’s most broken places) are driven by noble impulses: the desire to help, to make a difference, to bring healing, to share love. These are good impulses. But they have a shadow-side, in that they can objectify and diminish the dignity of the person/location being helped. In other words, it becomes easy to see the “helper” as the one with power and ability and the “help-ee” as the one without power and ability.
We sometimes speak of the world as being “broken”. But, is it? Is the world a problem to be fixed? When God looks at the world, does He see it as a problem to be solved? When He looks at people, does He see them as problems to be fixed?
I doubt it. God looks on the world with love, and definitely wants to heal it and redeem it and infuse it with shalom. But in doing so He does not define the world as a problem.
It’s a slippery slope. We start with a desire to help, but can easily slide into thinking what we have it together and those other guys don’t so we should go over and help them. It’s a touch Messiah-like — but . . . there’s only one true Messiah. And we’re not the guy. Maybe we should leave the God-like “save the world” stuff to God Himself.
This is a great video (only 3:41 long!) by Anne Lamott that addresses our need to “fix” and “save”. Have a look:
Anne is one of my favourite writers — she’s wild and wooly and does not fully align with traditional expressions of Christian belief — but she’s profound and provocative and reveals God through her writing in powerful ways.
There is so much brilliant stuff in this video. Anne speaks of how we are called to “bring forward” what is inside us and to seek to help . . . but that we need to be incredibly careful not to turn this into being about ourselves, i.e. it’s not about our need to help. In other words, we shouldn’t show up with our pre-determined solutions, thinking that we have the answer — finally, after all these years when people couldn’t figure it out!!!! — and shouldn’t these folks be grateful that we’ve arrived!!! Too much “Western” mission is about cloning and multiplying stock solutions that don’t help and sometimes harm the locale where they are implemented.
My favourite line from the video: showing up with a clipboard wanting to organize India.