20 July, 2009

The Dichotomy of Word and Deed.

You are in a foreign country, here to do missions, to serve the poor. You are staying at a guesthouse managed by Christians. In the morning you and your team make sandwiches for the day, do you a) leave behind a jumbled mess of bread crumbs, PB&J and dirty dishes for the hired help to clean up, or do you b) clean it up yourself because you would do that at home?

Later, you are relaxing at the home where you have been staying all week – and one of the staff comes in – do you a) greet him by name and ask how his day was, or b) ignore him, he’s just the cook after all?

One of the most interesting aspects of my time in Rwanda thus far has been the guesthouse in Kigali. It is run by Christians and staffed by Rwandans. Most of the groups that stay here are in Rwanda to do missions – they are here to run medical clinics, do street evangelism, etc. But one of the most fascinating discussions I’ve had was with a group that wasn’t Christian staying at the guesthouse. The reflections they gave back to me as to how the Christians in this building were behaving was startling and saddening. At one point I heard the line, “There is nothing in that place that makes me want what they’re selling, which seems so opposite to what X has.” Ouch. Most of the Christians here have reverted back to a colonial, 1800’s Southern, serve me house worker attitude that is disgusting and wrong.

People travel overseas and spend their time as a tourist. They see the sights, enjoy the food, and leave. Other people come to “serve” – and while from 9-4 they are doing good, the rest of the time they can be loud, rude, demeaning, and more harmful to the culture than the tourist.

Consider your witness.

I am painting with a broad brush – but it seems to me that most Christians turn their faith on and off. Today they are going to church so therefore from 8-11 they will be kind, gracious, and friendly. But they might curse at you if you get in their way after the service. Or, they are going to a get together tonight so they put on their Christian face. But if you were to interact with these people at any other time they would be grouchy, mean, superior and closed off. (I am considering myself in this too – just for the record).

If we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, no, wait, let me back up, if we truly believe that we are to be salt and light we need to be salt and light all the time, not just on Sunday morning, or with our Christian friends, or when we are doing “missions” in another country. (Another interesting conversation: the Christian lingo in the guesthouse, but more on that later.) And it’s not just about watching what you say or acting all spiritual aka superior (which actually leads to more problems), it’s encountering God, not just encountering church – it’s realizing that everyone is worthy of respect and just because they made your breakfast don’t mean they should clean up your mess. It drives me crazy. I want to scream in the living room – look at yourselves! But I don’t. Instead I cleaned up the table, apologized to the staff for the lack of respect they are being shown and came to rant on my blog. All the while wondering if the church will ever wake up to the dichotomy of word and deed.