Relationships and Spirituality

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Sep 8, 2008, 8:22:46 PM9/8/08
to Mennonite Poverty Forum
Relationships that open us to God

Christopher L. Heuertz doesn't claim to offer any secrets to spiritual
success. Instead, he shares what God is teaching him through his
friends, who happen to be the poorest of the poor.

In Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World (InterVarsity
Press, 2008), Heuertz's spirituality isn't a call to close your eyes
and think about God; instead, friendships with the poor make
friendship with God possible.

Our parents were right: we are who we hang out with. Our friends shape
who we are. That's not something to run from. Humans are relational
animals. There's no such thing as autonomy; it's a delusion. The
fibers of our being, Heuertz notes, "are made for relationships" (54).
But we can choose with whom we form these friendships. Our hope is
that the church may be a place where those friendships can happen. But
what does it mean when our churches don't welcome the poor?

Are we on the side of the poor?

Or, to put it more strongly, what does it mean when we aren't begging
the beggars to worship with us? Heuertz doesn't mince words: "If our
community makes no room for those who are poor, our community loses
all credibility" (58). While Jim Wallis is trying to fight for justice
on the national scale, Heuertz offers a much more intimate vision, one
that transforms our daily lives: "We work not for justice for everyone
but instead to ensure that we're on the 'right' side of the poverty
line" (58). Are we on the side of the poor?

That's his question. This isn't a political platform for a lobby
group. Rather, it's about what side of town we live on. Who are our
neighbors, who are our friends, who sits next to us when we worship,
who eats at our table? These questions mess with our lives. They haunt
our everyday decisions. But these questions also send us to the poor,
who offer us intimacy with God. And typically God shakes up our lives
so God can offer us an unimaginably better one.

Overflowing abundance gets messy

Jesus: "I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly."
But overflowing abundance gets really messy. "We want to let God in,"
writes Heuertz, "but usually on our terms. We want to make room for
Christ to reign on the thrones of our hearts, but only a clean Christ
who doesn't make a mess of our lives" (63).

Heuertz writes, "Jesus' ministry was not to the upper class, the
educated, the elite or the most influential social figures. Jesus came
and ministered among those who were poor, with the poor and as a poor
man. His ministry was to the children, those who were begging, victims
of leprosy, the woman at the well, the woman caught in the act of
adultery, the tax collectors, the fishermen communities and those on
the margins.

Following Jesus alongside common people

"Jesus came to the common people and lived alongside them. As a
church, we must learn new ways to celebrate our faith inclusively so
that those on the margins of society will feel welcome – and so that
our love and acceptance of the other will aid in our paths to
holiness. Jesus' ministry was marked with a distinctive compassion for
the oppressed poor" (69).

I am grateful to Heuertz and his friends for showing me that such an
abundant life is possible. I can't begin to do justice to Heuertz's
storytelling; that's what makes the book a must read. Read it for the
stories of real life, of real friendship, of people we can never meet
because they are dead now. And also read it for the joy of abundant
life, the joy of Christ's resurrected life, a life broken open for

This article is adapted by Amigos MCUSA from a book review by IsaacV
on the Young Anabaptist Radicals blog, available at:
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