Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Charity

A rage  (and yes it is a rage) wells up in my heart whenever I hear anyone saying we must give more to migrants and refugees.  Then I start to feel so bad that I have got so angry, but the anger will not go and I know that somehow I need to work through this and make sense of it.  Rage does not happen without a reason, and the only way to calm it is to find the Truth.

Hospitality is something that is a mark of civilised society, but it is something that has to happen on a family by family basis.  Opening up one's house and treating someone as a guest is a mark of a wholesome family and wholesome families build civilised societies.  Often it is the poorest in society who are amongst the most generous in their welcome.

You make yourself vulnerable by opening up like this.  You let someone enter your space, where everything that is precious to you resides.  There is a risk involved, especially if you do not really know your guest.  Your hospitality could be scorned, mocked or taken advantage of.  

As Christians we are expected to do this, indeed we may be entertaining angels without our realising.... and we must always be on the look out for angels. Once, when I worked in  a hostel for the homeless, three rent boys came to the door looking for food.  Their world is the underworld beyond the underworld of the hostel users, it was very unusual to get such a visitation. One had a face very badly disfigured by crack use, the other two hid their faces within cowl-like hoods.  They had rucksacks on their backs with well used magazines of homo-erotic pornography sticking out of them.  Yet I do believe they were angels, they wanted no more than to sit on the front step to the hostel, they wanted food and they needed respect. It was a simple thing and one doesn't ignore a knock on the door like that, though in feeding them I was guilty of breaking some guidelines somewhere....

The thing is "communion".  It is about responding to souls in need because they are brothers and may be angels.  They cease to have a label which has been bestowed on them by society.  You help someone if you recognise a brother. And the thing is we can't help everyone.  It is not that we are making a judgement about who is a brother and who isn't.  It is just that we can only do what we can do, we cannot help with the liberality of God, because we cannot give like God, we give of what we have, and what we have is what God has given us. We must recognise our limitations.

I can not help the poor and somewhat distressed old lady that stands at the corner of my street making noises like the seagulls.  I cannot help the beggar outside the department store with the ulcerated legs and heavy drink problem.  I cannot help directly because I can not see exactly what it is that they need.  Often what they need is not what they are asking for.  We cannot give to everyone.  But God does call us to give to some.  You know when there is a beggar you are to give something to.  You know when you see the man beaten up on the way to Jericho and it is YOU that is being asked to  help him in his plight.  You know when you have met a brother, someone who clicks with you at a very deep level, someone you can share the path with, carrying each other's crosses for a while. You meet, soul to soul, you see Christ, and it has to be a two way thing, they see Christ in you, you see Christ in them.

Charity is personal.  It makes you vulnerable.  It is a risk but you have to give unconditionally, irrespective of how it is received.

And this is why I fly into a rage.  I feel like I am being asked to do the impossible: give to a group of people simply because they exist as a group.  It is as absurd as saying: give to city bankers, they have so much money but so little love, give them all the love you have..... but nobody ever says that.... and yet there will be city bankers more in need of love than nearly anyone you can imagine......

All we have to do is welcome the stranger.. but it is a thing of the heart, the thing of a heart at peace, and it is a soul to soul thing.  Refugees and migrants arriving en masse in a country are a socio-political entity created by worldly injustice and bad politics, those are labels for individual governments to deal with in the way they see fit, it is the broad brush of whatever passes as the welfare state in the country they find themselves in that has to help and if it can't it must say so and it should have a right not to help......  Charity starts at home, our homes, our hearts and the individuals God places before us as individuals (some of whom may be refugees or migrants).

There are some who demand charity .... you know the ones..... they are looking for money, they see you as a soft touch,  you give and then a load more take advantage of your generosity and all start asking till you have nothing left and you regret giving anything in the first place.  You've been had.  When my grandfather said to me not to give to the child beggars in India for this very reason, was this the mark of a cold man or a wise man? 

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