Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Selfish Servanthood

Katy and I both work in the "not-for-profit" sector. We both work with organizations that serve the poor and oppressed, the abused and downtrodden. We've found that this creates a certain expectation of who we are as people - as Christians. Our occupational title seems to create an assumption with some people (certainly not all, but some) that we must be especially gracious or loving, merciful or kind. Well, maybe. But really we feel constantly tormented by the dichotomy of the saved soul: saint and sinner - most often giving preference to the sinner. It kind of feels like we're living a lie sometimes, like we aren't the people we project ourselves to be. Not that it's our intention to project a lie. I guess we just need to curse more and knock old ladies down the subway steps and stuff. Maybe then the ethos of our employers wouldn't be so quickly equated with who we are.

As I was reading back through the book Blue Like Jazz over Christmas, this particular passage resonated with me:

"I talk about love, forgiveness, social justice; I rage against American materialism in the name altruism, but have I even controlled my own heart? The overwhelming majority of the time I spend thinking about myself, pleasing myself, reassuring myself, and when I am done there is nothing to spare for the needy. Six billion people live in this world, and I can only muster thoughts for one. Me."

I guess that's part of why Isaiah reminded us that, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags." Even in my best moments I am mostly serving myself.

So next time you see me on the street, don't forget to remind me what a sham and dirt bag I am. And then maybe give me a hug and remind me that I'm forgiven and loved, too.