he went directly to the bottom

Last week Brandon was her visiting, and we had a long conversation one afternoon about where we spend our money and whether that makes us complicit in the wrongdoing of companies that mistreat workers or the environment. I was mostly interested in the guilt feelings that occur in people who feel they are complicit but can't find any other way to get the things they need. Those guilt feelings are then often pressed on others. But I don't see anyone finding a way out.

I offered many arguments, and so did he. But the one that seemed to finally get us past our impasse surprised me, and I want to remember it. He was quoting someone, saying that we not only need to work to shut down oppressive corporations (by refusing to buy their products) but also help provide better jobs for people in developing countries who are pressured into working for these corporations. I had doubts about the realism of such a far-reaching goal. But, more importantly, I wondered who decided that we were in the position to take jobs away and give new ones, taking the lives of so many workers into our hands. Doesn't that put us into the role of overlord, only hoping we will be more compassionate overlords than the CEO of Walmart?

From what I can see in Jesus' life, that's not the position he put himself in. He had great compassion, but he didn't attempt to take control over people's lives, even to make them better. He didn't rally people to bring down oppressive governments or corporations and build better ones. That may have been the type of savior many people wanted, but it wasn't Jesus. Instead of taking the position of "good overlord," he went directly to the bottom, to the people who were oppressed, and showed them how to be free. Not by changing their world for them, but by helping them to change themselves. By showing them the power of faith. So the poor and weak could face their oppressors without fear and refuse to beg from them or be controlled by their threats, obeying only God, their loving Father.

So they could be free. And Jesus himself showed the way, a poor, free man himself. Not driven by guilt, either. Free.

It's a difficult approach to take, though. We've been trying to find the way for years now, eventually being led into the retreat work for the poor here. But to many people it seems to offer no hope for really changing things. The other day I read the story of John sending word to Jesus, from a prison cell, asking if he was the chosen one. Understandably, John wanted to see some major changes. But Jesus replied, "The blind receive their sight, the lame walk ...and the poor have good news preached to them."

"And blessed is he who takes no offense at me."