Monday, November 12, 2007

Missinary work versus Proselytizing

Sherry W at Intentional Disciples linked to this remarkable ministry in southeast DC. [And let me add that it was absolutely wonderful meeting her last week. Thanks, Sherry, for your patient listening!]. I'd heard of A Simple House before -- PNCEA had a profile on them last year written by the director of the apostolate. And what a remarkable apostolate it is! Go and spend a few minutes reading some of their Tracts and Thoughts. This is from their section on Missionary Work versus Proselytizing.
Proselytizing tries to force (or inflict) God upon people and often makes them a slave to the moral law. After the early Christian missions were taking root, proselytizing Jews disturbed the early churches by arguing that all must submit to circumcision and the Law. When this proselytizing caused confusion about the Church's teaching, Christians became insecure about their salvation and were tempted to despair and leave the faith or become circumcised and follow the Law in order to 'play it safe'. Paul completely rejects this proselytizing attitude in his letters to the Galatians and Romans. He makes it clear that this form of moral rigorism destroys the freedom that Jesus Christ died to create (Gal 5:1).

The primary goal of missionary work is to kindle the fire of love. God has gone out of his way to win our love and to demonstrate his love for us. The cross is the most striking demonstration of his love. Missionary work should reflect this and preach 'Christ crucified' (1 Cor 1:23). It should focus on God's love and try to inspire the love of God.

Following the moral law is the proper response of love to a God who is all good. With sincerity the psalmist says, "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." (Ps. 119:97), and all of Psalm 119 is a thanksgiving for the gift of the law. No slave to the law is thankful for it.
It is necessary for a missionary to love those he is trying to convert, and it greatly helps if the missionary likes them too. Zeal, defending the honor of God, and a desperation to save someone from Hell are dangerous motivations. They can subvert the missionary from focusing on love. The following excerpts capture the true spirit of missionary work.
[Hmm. I use the word "zeal" a lot. For me, it means passion, ardent desire, being on fire. There is, of course a dark side.] There follow many quotes from the Soul of the Apostolate (recommended book!)
"God," wrote Lacordaire, "has willed that no good should be done to man except by loving him, and that insensibility should be forever incapable either of giving him light, or inspiring him to virtue." And the fact is that men take glory in resisting those who try to impose anything on them by force; they make it a point of honor to raise countless objections against the wisdom that aims at arguing everybody, all the time, around to its own point of view. But because there is no humiliation involved in allowing oneself to be disarmed by kindness, men are quite willing to yield to the attraction of its advances.
Definitely go through their page on their Motivation and Philosophy.
Southeast Washington, DC is a place where:

* there is enough food but children go hungry because of neglect,
* cars are not stolen for profit but for fun,
* people understand that drugs ruin lives, but they use them anyway,
* women are prostituting themselves without pimps or physical coercion.

This is also a place with few missionaries and many children. This is spiritual poverty.

There is a temptation to become engrossed in the idea of a political solution to the problems of the inner-city. The study of social welfare, welfare economics, and sociology all focus on the political aspect of the problems. Every political solution is fundamentally a material solution, but materials do not seem to be lacking in the inner-city of Washington, DC.

Jobs, treatment for addiction, and food are available, but it's as if something mysterious stands in the way. The poor have experienced a great loss of hope which leads to self-defeating behavior. It has been called 'a situation that defies a solution.' The real problem is a spiritual problem, and to provide material goods without friendship or spiritual support only continues the problem.

When someone loses hope, they lose interest in their own welfare and their family's future which causes behaviors resembling a slow suicide. They need to be convinced to live! This is a hard job and A Simple House is trying to reach some of the hardest cases.
They're not far away. Perhaps I can find time to go meet these remarkable people and even help out. Keep them in your prayers, and support them as you can.

1 comment:

Sherry W said...

As Cardinal George put it so well:

We will never evangelize what we do not love.