A couple of weeks ago I commented on the fact that I had just started reading Friendship at the Margins by Christopher Heuertz and Christine Pohl. I don’t usually take two weeks to read a book, but this one has been extremely impacting for me and I have enjoyed taking time to reflect on all they are saying and pray about the implications for my own life.
Chris Heuertz is the international director of Word Made Flesh (WMF), whose people live and serve amongst the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. Christine Pohl is a theologian and ethicist. She is professor of social ethics at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore Kentucky.
I love the approach to mission laid out in this book. They contend that:
…the ways God works in and through us are much more connected to tender hearts and open hands than to personal assets and skills. Our completeness is found in Christ and community where distinctions in status or resources mean much less. (p21)
It is as we befriend people at the margins – prostitutes and drug addicts, street kids and those in extreme poverty – through the practice of hospitality and relationship, we create communities in which our eyes are opened to recognize the for righteousness and justice to be lived out.
Heurertz and Pohl give a fresh look at the meaning of both community and mission. They do not do this in a judgmental way that makes us retreat, but in a compassionate loving way that has me longer for more intimate relationship with those at the margins who have so much to teach us all about life, faith and and what it means to be followers of Christ.
Friendship at the Margins is I think the most important book I have read for a long time. It is challenging, convicting and life giving. It is easy to read with lots of stories that bring to life the true meaning of friendship and mission. It is a must read for anyone interested in community or in mission. It is also an important book for those who are concerned about how to move deeper into intimacy with God.
Let me end with one of its most compelling quotes about discipleship:
One of the ongoing surprises in mission is experiencing how the gift of friendship contributes to discipleship. Many of the women and children with whom WMF works have suffered unspeakable trauma, abuse, violence and exploitation. And yet many continue to find the courage to pray. Their faith is resilient. They live with gratitude and hope. From their poverty they practice abundant generosity, giving freely and with joy.
We grow together in discipleship, learning from one another as we draw closer to Jesus. We do not bring the same experiences or the same resources into community, but through our friendships those experiences and resources are shared, and they become the clay out of which faithful discipleship to Jesus is fashioned.
Mutuality does not come from everyone doing the same thing or making the same contributions. It comes from shared humility, respect and appreciation for the other person, and some sense of share vision or purpose. (p79)