the shift from crisis to control

I've been thinking a little more about serving in temporary crisis situations (like I've been doing in some ways lately), and how that service changes as the situation becomes more stable (changes I've been experiencing in other areas of life here). It's hard to define exactly when the change occurs, but there seems to be a clear difference. And the change seems very common, happening over and over in most all areas of social life.

When there is a crisis or urgent need that isn't being met, people feel vulnerable and needy, and they are quite open to help. Any help, from wherever it might come. There is great freedom in serving in such a situation, and the urgency of the need provides lots of motivation to help. Love prompts us to act, and there is the freedom of love in that work. The help is a gift given and people are glad to receive it that way. This is the kind of work I've enjoyed most. It's the way work was meant to be, in my opinion.

But situations usually never remain this way. As the crisis eases (perhaps because of all the help given), the community gets its footing again and begins to feel less vulnerable, less needy. And it begins to take more control of meeting the needs of its members. It begins to organize a more stable and secure structure for the meeting of those needs. The people were glad to receive any help before, but now want to shift from being needy recipients of charity to begin choosing representatives for themselves, who will serve according to the wishes of the community. Those who serve now become more like employees (usually literally) rather than givers of gifts. In this there is notably less freedom in the service, and the motivation for working becomes more the expectations or ambitions of the people, rather than the love that spontaneously responds to need.

It's been enlightening to me to see this happen. I knew about different ways of working and serving (gifts vs. employment, for example), but I'm just now seeing how these can shift over time. And I'm trying to figure out how to keep working the first way, and avoid the second, as situations keep changing.

Recognizing this shift also seems important if we're trying to follow Jesus' example of being "strangers and exiles" in society. Because we can certainly help and love others in need while being outsiders, but I have a hard time seeing how we can become representatives of the will of the people and still be strangers the way Jesus was. It's the difference between an ambassador and an exile. I think it's also helpful to notice the kind of service Jesus offered. His main kind of work seemed to be helping the helpless, those in crisis, and when the people wanted to make him their representative (their king) he refused.

It might seem that it can be different in the church, where we're all supposed to be strangers together. But it seems to me that the members of the body of Christ are never meant to be representatives (or employees) of the other members. We're all supposed to be the servants and representatives of Jesus. Thus the service and work of the body should always be of the first kind, gifts given to each other, prompted by love responding to needs, while we always remain needy and grateful for whatever is given. The life of the anawim. Where the institutional church has (again and again) gotten its footing and become less vulnerable and more secure, it has certainly demonstrated the usual shift to representatives of the will of the people; but in this it just shows that it is straying from the reality of Christ's body.