Because of some grave misunderstandings of the role of good works in Christian history – especially that we could earn our way to God’s love and saving mercy if we just did enough of them – we’ve been hesitant to recognize that they are central to deepening experiences of grace, and a fuller appreciation of the importance of good works in discipleship and holiness changes how we perceive their role.
If we see that care for persons in need is a response of love to Jesus (Matthew 25: 31-46), a chance to walk on holy ground, then our entire understanding of mission and ministry shifts. It is not what “we” do for “them”, but an opportunity for all of us to be enveloped in God’s grace and mercy. In God’s economy, it’s less clear who is donor and who is recipient because all are blessed when needs are met and when individuals receive care.
In their great book, “Friendship at the Margins,” Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl talk about service in terms of friendship. Have you found the distinctions between “us” and “them” disintegrating in your work? Have you found friendship in unexpected places?