An Exercise in Potential Alienation

But I have received no assurance that anything we can do will eradicate suffering. I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace. I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can.

C.S. Lewis, “Why I am Not a Pacifist”

Twitter profiles and Facebook statuses are replete with hunger enders, poverty eradicators, world changers. The quiet work of limited objectives has become grandiose, loud, clanging. I’ve been (and likely will be in the future) one of those gongs. And maybe there is little wrong with adopting a cause, with advocating for it from the high places.

I’ve been watching from the sidelines lately. The world changers are starting to burn thin. Wicks once thought to be placed in deep waxy wells are being found no longer than that of tea lights. The expectations upon them are heavy. The odds are insurmountable this side of heaven. The competition within their causes? Brutal. The business of revolution is maddening at times, deadening at others.

What if we adopted a quieter revolution? What if we quietly devoted ourselves to our churches, our families, and our day jobs? What if we engaged world issues without the pomp and circumstance, with more focus and intentionality? What if the whole of Christian community were more strategic and less rhetorical?

What if no one knew?

Would we be any less faithful?

Lord, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…

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14 Responses to An Exercise in Potential Alienation

  1. Matt S says:

    I love the dose of reality here! We tend to overlook the biblical command to live a quiet life, especially if our noise is about something we deem a “good cause.” What if instead of shouting about helping all these different ministries, we chose one or two that genuinely touched our hearts and came alongside them in a real way?

    My church works with a homeless shelter in Springfield, IL. This place only accepts about 40 people at a time, and is not the short term type solution. They work for months, sometimes years, with the same people until they are ready to be productive members of society. What if our faithfulness looked like this?

  2. Well posed, Seth. This echoes some of my own wrestling almost verbatim.

    Where is the graceful meeting between global needs and what our bodies were actually made to handle? One of my dearest friends co-founded Love146 and what she faces (the stories she hears) everyday is an ongoing near death to her spirit and emotions. Yet, she cannot stop what she is doing because the need presses to hard into her values.

    More thoughts, but not more time. Maybe I’ll check-in later.


  3. Seth says:

    I love the folks over there at 146. I love your thoughts. Would love to hear what your Love146 friend thinks about the balance here.

  4. I think she would say, after 10 years in the injustice trenches, that she is still struggling to find the balance – if there is one. I do know that on many days she does her job and tells the rest of the staff that she “can’t hear any stories today”.

    Are we inherently designed to know the pain of the entire world? And yet, not everyone is taking care of their neighborhoods, so what else can we do? For me personally, I HAVE to listen to my life and the Spirit inside to determine the season of flux I am in and whether to go “big” or go “small” in the way I relate to injustice issues. I don’t think you can live “big” all the time because that would be neglectful to the “small”. At the same time, in an age when the world’s problems are brought to our front porch, is inaction neglectful to the global family? I don’t know. Sometimes I think we are filled with too much self-importance in our causes and lean towards playing God too.

    And yet, when I think of certain characters (William Wilberforce for example) in history who set out to change only the injustices on their doorstep, they ended up changing the world.

    I’ll ask my friend what her thoughts are and get back to you. Good conversation to be sure.

  5. Chris Marlow says:

    Good words as always. I know for me I don’t feel the competition w/ other orgs. However, I do feel the struggle to find balance and rhythm, esp when NPO’s run on shoe-string budgets and the need will always be massive. We have to solve the worlds greatest problems, yet we also have to give away 85-90% of our budgets – this does not seem sustainable 🙂

    Also, I wonder how do we do quieter revolutions as we engage globally? That said, I agree, we need to somehow move away from the flashy hip that create slacktavism on many levels.

    Then I wonder if the the Apostles lived a quiet life? 🙂

    • Seth says:

      I think your comment, along with the comments of Matt and Scott say a lot (see below). There is a balance here in raising funds for the specific NPO purpose. That certainly involves telling story, and doing it well. So there is certainly a need to do this correctly, with humility, and in a way that accomplishes an ultimate purpose.

      But I also agree with Matt, that though loud works draw crowds, perhaps there is a deeper issue here. Perhaps the loud clanging takes too much effort away from the work. It becomes it’s own kind of Rock concert.

      And Scott? Just yes.

      There is a place for NPO marketing I think. My concern, though, is that there is a type of personal marketing going on here that is dangerous. The number of orgs I support says nothing about my depth of character.

  6. Matt Mooney says:

    good words my friend. just to add another aspect from the non-profit angle…honestly, I think often the need to raise money in order to do what we feel we should leads some to feel they must pick up megaphones and divert their efforts. an unfortunate reality is that the loud works draw the crowd, and so everyone feels they must be louder than the other to be sustained. what if we looked instead to support quiet works in a steady direction? otherwise, the doers will always be giving folks what they want…snazzy marketing and lofty words.

  7. Scott Herron says:

    I love this post. I believe that admonishment to live a “quiet” life from 1Tim 2:2 is a call to avoid the opposite which Paul addresses in 1 Cor 13 describing endeavors that resound like an annoying gong. The noisy gong is not the problem however, it’s actually the pompous attitude of the gong player since gongs don’t play themselves. Quiet therefore goes deeper because whats being addressed is pride. The noisiness of “kings” and “those in high positions” can clearly be a problem as Paul sees it. The idea of quiet can also be likened to peaceful as we are encouraged to live in (1Thess 4:11) so that we don’t forget who we are. Quiet seems to be an attitude or approach more than an actual noise. It should not be confused with the striving for simplicity that so many feel is the answer to inconvenience since the greatest example of love we’re given came at the greatest inconvenience…the greatest sacrifice.

    *(there are many indicatives in 1 Thess which pave the way toward the imperative of vs. 11)

    God calls us all to different things. It’s difficult to compare Wilberforce to our movements today as he didn’t have twitter or the like to promote his cause. Wilberforce also lived within the culture he was trying to change, which his resistance would have been face to face. Many groups today also reside within their cultures but others find ways to operate from afar which also changes the way we interpret our “doings”. And Hollywood doesn’t seem to grasp the Wilberforce story well in my thinking.

    As we all press forward to whatever God has called us to do let us remember that in God’s economy there is no sense of worry, regret, anxiety, stress, fear, or clattering….only peace, patience, love, sacrifice and purpose. To live quietly is to trust. Trust in a God who loves more than we could, who heals more than we can, who cares more than we do. And as a father who let’s his children complicate a project that he could do better and more efficiently on his own…so is his love for us as he invites our participation despite how we slow it down or wrench the gears.

    Help, serve, love, rejoice, pray, do…but above else trust in not our righteousness but Christ’s. For we are loved deeper than we could ever imagine.

    Sorry Seth, sort o hijacked your post!

  8. Pingback: Simply Missional - Links to Enjoy

  9. It’s world outreach week at our church and one of the guest speakers was from Love146. I was unable to attend that night, but heard from no less than a dozen people that it was “life changing.” Finally, I started asking them… How? How will this change your life? And not one of them could answer the question which pained me at the deepest level. I’ve spent years working for and with international aid organizations and volunteering with habitat for humanity at home. Your words ring so true. In my humble opinion, living a quiet life isn’t about isolationism, but about walking out our faith in the daily decisions. Pay the extra money for fair trade items. Give in secret to those orgs you love. Teach your kids to love the unlovable. Spend more time praying for aid workers and those they help.

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