Being Juicy


As surely as solidarity arises out of true intimacy, mission emerges from fecundity.

-Henri Nouwen

(If it seems that I am obsessed with Henri Nouwen these days, you are correct.  I’ve been reading Lifesigns and it has taken me a couple of months to get through 3/4 of the book.  There is a lot to chew on.  And because it’s such a reflective work, I’ve felt the need to take breaks – a lot of breaks – to mull and let his wisdom sink in.)

Now if you don’t know what fecundity means, please don’t feel like you’re missing something here.  I only just learned the meaning a couple of weeks ago.

It means fruitfulness.  Fertility.  The capacity of producing abundantly.  (thank you dictionary.com)

And I think that statement by Nouwen – even though its only a few words long – is supremely important in the pursuit of justice.  Because if mission emerges from anything but fecundity, we are in trouble.  (Fecundity of course implies a deep connection to Jesus…”remain in me and I in you and you will bear much fruit.”)

I have seen plenty of examples of mission-gone-wrong.  Not because it wasn’t a good mission or because it wasn’t well intentioned.  But because if we pursue justice, if we care for the poor and the oppressed, if we do good out of anything but fecundity (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control), we run the risk of thinking that we are the Saviors and that God obviously cannot do it without us.  And that of course is untrue.

I saw a lack of material resources, education, and medical care and responded first with a strong desire to do something about it all.  But I discovered quickly that this mindset is like that of the problem solver with all of the “know-how”.  There is obviously nothing wrong with alleviating poverty and working for better health and education.  Yet when our main motivation is to bring about successful changes, we may in the long run do more harm than good, because the urge to bring about change often carries violence in its wake.”

(Henri Nouwen on his first trip to South America; Lifesigns, pg. 76)

I guess, I don’t really know what I’m trying to communicate right now. But this is challenging my idea of justice. Maybe the poor and survivors of terrible abuse don’t need the pomp and sensationalism of being “rescued”.  (Please don’t take this the wrong way.  I support organisations that are involved in the rescue of women, men, children who have been sold for labour and sex.  Of course rescue for them is critical.)  BUT.  It’s the hype around us in the West going to “save”, “bring the Gospel”, “change the world”, etc. that may be more detrimental that we think it is.

Because maybe what the world needs is Christians who really believe that the poor of the world are their brothers and sisters in Christ and that means, in solidarity, out of fecundity, bearing their burdens with them.  That implies changing the way we live and think – not only about ourselves, but of the poor and the oppressed as well.

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