Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How does Christ centered actually work

In our community we see it in three spheres

We are Christ centered in our understanding of the bible. This means that all of the scriptures, are read through the lens of Christ. The teachings, life, death and resurrection of Christ, is used as a guide towards properly understanding all of the biblical narrative. This does not in any way mean we do not value and affirm the rest of scripture, it just means we use Christ as the tool to understand them, rather than using them to understand Christ.

We are Christ centered in our approach to community membership. We do not have an entrance exam or ritual. We do not have a boundary that one needs cross. We use a centered set, rather than a bounded set, as our defining principle. What this means is we do not have a fence, that is based on beliefs, practices and ritual which determines whether someone is in or out. But rather we have a well at the center that is Christ, and all that are found in relation to that well, are welcome to be part of our community. In real life this means we have those in our community that are not theists, but they find in Christ, the way of love, and they are drawn to Christ as teacher and guide. To us, we consider them as part of a journey towards this center. They may have a different trajectory than many of us but we are all on journeys, and we all must encourage and support one another.

And lastly, we are Christ centered in our approach to the sociopolitical issues of our day. As Christ did not stay in a place of privilege, but left the glory of heaven, to be one of us. And not only that, but placed himself, intentionally among those that are marginalized. Not just the poor, but the socially and religiously marginalized as well. We are not trying to bring others to us to be "fixed", nor are we reaching down to "help" but we have decided that we must become one with others. So much a part of who they are, that their deliverance is our own.



Final Anonymous said...

John, I have a semi-related question; do you deal with the mentally ill homeless, and if so, do you have any pointers?

We live in a suburban community that has recently acquired a visible homeless population. One of these women regularly roams on a street I travel nearly every day. Yesterday it was 100 degrees and she was dressed in layers and a ski cap, so I took her some water -- obviously I'd love to do more, but I had a feeling my overtures would be rebuffed anyway, so I decided to start small.

I was right; she told me she didn't need anything and to go away. I asked if I could leave the water on the road and she said no. So I crossed the street back to my car and left the bottles on that side of the road, without looking back. Today one was gone, so I'm taking that as a hopeful sign, but a unsure how to proceed from here.

I do not want to offend her dignity nor frighten her. The community knows she's there and apparently she's where she thinks she wants to be; there are clear signs of mental illness. Should I just continue to put things in the spot where I left the bottles? Do I find a way to approach her and gain her trust? Any thoughts?

john jensen said...

Yes I do believe that our approach is the same towards those that have mental illness. It has seemed that through the years this is an area that we have been blessed to be a part of.

A few things that I want to affirm in your account is that you asked her if you could help, and you didn't force things upon her. That was very good. Remember Jesus asked, "what would you like for me to do for you?"

What we have realized through trial and error is that particularly with the mentally ill, you have to have a long term mentality. Many of these wonderful people have been abused their entire life, and they have trust issues. In addition, many have mental illness that is itself a trust issue. And, often we see two steps forward and seven steps backwards with our friends.

We have realized that we must love them, even if we cant help them. And that many times, what they need more than anything for health, is just a normative community, that loves them from a place of equality.


Final Anonymous said...

Can you break that down into practical steps?

Here are my thoughts: She has been placed or has wandered into my life's path. I can't change her, make her conform to my standards of "normal" or good living (ie, get off the street, into some shelter, look for a job, relate to people civilly, etc.), but that's okay because Jesus never asked us to get results, he just told us to get out there and do.

Since she won't talk to me, I have to guess at her needs, and right now the most immediate would be food and water. Water is easiest, because it is bottled and she won't assume I'm poisoning her.

My plan is to drop it off several feet in front of her when I see her and drive away. Not even look back. Check later to see if she's taken it. Maybe leave some gloves when it gets cold. Not even try, for a long while, to make real contact or even eye contact.

In your experience, does that sound reasonable, or are there other things you've found that work? I'm really only looking for Step One and maybe Step Two here.


Final Anonymous said...

I should add that she walks on a piece of land between a service road and a highway. It's extremely loud; I could barely hear her when I was ten feet away. So my options are limited.

john jensen said...

those are good ideas.

One thing I would ask you to consider however is to look her in the eyes and smile. Many homeless people report that people refuse to look at them, or stare and then turn away when caught.

I commend you on your heart, and your willingness. You are starting where you should, and just trust the Spirit as to where you go from there.


Final Anonymous said...

Thanks. I'll play the smiling part by ear; I wasn't sure if I should make too much eye contact at the beginning since she told me very plainly to leave her alone.

On the other hand, a man who saw the whole thing reported that he had tried to help her twice (not sure what was involved in the "help") and she cussed him out. I was friendly to her and smiled, and I think she was as friendly to me as she was able to be in the moment; she definitely didn't yell or cuss. So again, I take that as a hopeful sign.

Sorry to take up so much space with this. Sounds silly, but I really, really felt like we both had a spiritual connection. Like God puts people in our paths for a reason, and we are in each other's path for a reason right now.