drawing out the anawim

Last week when I was talking with Julius about community and the fact that the anawim doesn't include everyone (not even all the poor), he said that brought up the problem of exclusion. A couple days ago someone also commented that I sounded like I thought Jesus didn't love everyone. Maybe because I was saying that Jesus' community had a specific character, and not everyone fit. I do think Jesus loves everyone. And that he invites everyone into his community (as we should also). But I still think his community was primarily composed of the anawim, the faithful poor, those of broken spirit who were looking for God's help. And that's not everyone.

This wasn't because Jesus excluded certain people. It was because he only attracted certain people. The others didn't want to join his community.

Jesus did take up the Old Testament understanding of holiness, set apartness. His teaching and way of life was noticeably distinct from (and often the opposite of) the lives of most people in society. He seems to have worked almost completely outside the social structures of his time. And he called people to "repent," change, and "follow me" out of their current lives into the new life he was offering. A noticeably different life. A life that would cause his followers to be pushed out of the respectable social circles and even attacked (as he was) by those in power. Jesus was not catering to people where they were at. They had to go out to see him, they had to follow, they had to chose to either stay with him or stay as they were. He was calling people out, to a life completely different.

But what he was offering was different from what's usually offered to draw people out. Jesus didn't have money. He wasn't a powerful leader (though some thought he was at first). He offered spiritual teaching, and miraculous faith healings. And a life of complete dependence on God.

This didn't appeal to many people. At least not enough to follow him for long. Jesus didn't have the resources to support people, or the political clout to get them what they wanted or crush their enemies. And following Jesus meant giving up financial security, being pushed to the margins of society, and even being hunted down at times. Yes, Jesus loved all and invited all. But most would not follow him, not for what he was offering.

I believe the same is true today. It's hard to see, because most churches offer many things that Jesus did not offer, they are wealthy, respectable, even politically influential. So it's hard to tell why people go to churches; there's a lot they can get out of it that has nothing to do with Jesus or the spiritual life. Churches have gotten this way because they want to draw more people in, and they know what people want. So we get church communities that are very different from the community Jesus gathered. Those who were drawn to him were drawn in faith, not expecting financial or political profit from it, only expecting a miracle, and to find God.

And, yes, I know some people go to churches for that reason also. Which is very good. A cause for hope.

But I'm interested in drawing out people like Jesus did. Not just any people, but the anawim. When I've been out walking, I've noticed that I draw certain people and repel certain people. I'm more likely to meet either the compassionate ones or the oppressors. The comfortable or greedy keep away; what would they want with a poor stranger? I like how that works. Fishing for people, perhaps? Using a kind of bait (me) that draws out the people that are ready to have an encounter that helps them grow spiritually. The 12-step groups also tend to draw out certain people and repel others. The proud, those who think they can handle their own lives, stay away. Only the broken and desperate come. I like that, too. And it's similar to Jesus' way of ministry, not offering to save people through money or human power but through the power of God. Promising a miracle for those who trust God to heal them.

I'm wondering if the retreat place in Virginia (for the poor) also draws out the anawim in a similar way. They don't offer much except a chance to grow spiritually. I can see why most people would not be interested in that. But for those who are desperate for a peaceful place to pray and someone to help them hear God, I can see it being a great gift.

And I'd really like to spend time with people who come out for that.