My Own Internal Reluctance.

by Chris Kamalski

“My Own Internal Reluctance.”

Falling from Tom Smith’s lips as a way of explaining his rationale in not engaging with poverty in a more profound way in his daily life, I sat in our second book discussion of David Bosch’s master work, Transforming Mission, profoundly disturbed by the searing truth of Tom’s words.  Have you experienced those brief moments when all becomes clear, as if your mind starts to order fragmented thought, flashes of desire, and your fleeting heart passions into one cohesive statement of fact?  The phrase above was that experience for me this morning.  

So much could be/should be reflected upon our shared conversations thus far, and I’m sure both myself and others will pour out their thoughts in the next few days, and throughout the course of this amazing discussion that is unfolding. We ‘attempted’ to unpack some of Bosch’s thoughts in terms of how Matthew’s theology of mission as shown through his writing, and (again) barely scratched the surface of Bosch’s masterful work.  I’ll follow up with further thoughts on the introduction and initial chapter on Matthew’s Gospel, as well as what we are diving into as we continue reading in Luke/Acts and Paul’s writing throughout the New Testament.

However, I don’t want to stray far from Tom’s initial phrase this evening.  In a wide-ranging, convicting discussion on the gospel, the nature of mission, and the integration of the poor and marginalized among us, my heart was laid bare by the honest admission above.  Questions that prevent me from sleeping easily tonight & desiring to turn off my heart in a sea of endless Internet surfing include the following:

  • Why am I not ‘doing more’ to engage the end of poverty in my world?  
  • Why have I allowed guilt, my own comfort and sense of security, and a healthy distance from ‘the poor’ (Even that label de-humanizes the people that this entails, exposing my continued, deeply rooted hypocrisy) to determine how I live?  
  • Why is there a sense in my heart that I am living in a ‘better way’ than those with ‘less’ than me?  
  • Why do I not have poor friends?  
  • Wouldn’t having ‘poor’ friends be nothing but a social exercise for me, something that further rounded out my personality?  
  • At my core, am I as deeply prejudiced as it seems?  
  • Why do these problems fall on my shoulders alone (at least, I make it out to be this way)?  
  • Is poverty a much deeper and more pervasive disease than pure material possession (including such things as poverty of spirit, purpose, family, hope, etc. as Curtis brilliantly pointed out tonight)?

The fact that I am rich beyond measure (Check out www.globalrichlist.com for a disheartening confirmation of this matter), and yet impoverished in so many other ways, is both disturbing and hopefully catalytic tonight.

One thought from Bosch:

It is unthinkable to divorce the Christian life of love and justice from being a disciple…To become a disciple means a decisive and irrevocable turning to both God and neighbor (Transforming Mission, pp. 81-82).

Another from Henri Nouwen:

Wherever I turn I am confronted with my deep-seated resistance against following Jesus on his way to the Cross and my countless ways of avoiding poverty, whether material, intellectual, or emotional (Spiritual Direction, p. 138).

Just to clarify, I’m speaking publicly to myself with these words, not in an effort to self-martyr, or to declare my own existential sense of goodness, but to call my own apathy out.  I love ideas in all forms, and yet am deeply aware that my ideas often do not become action, and therefore actualized reality that has power (infused hopefully by the Spirit’s work) to actually transform and heal.

In another of Tom’s haunting phrases, “I need a new conversion.”

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