‘I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends.’

Author: 
Fr Alec
Date: 
Sunday, May 17, 2015 - 9:30am

 

 

There is a scene at the end of the film of Schindler’s List in which Oscar Schindler, the German businessman who kept 1100 Jews in his factory safe from the concentration camps, is surrounded at the end of hostilities by those whom he has saved. He had spent his entire fortune on bribes to keep them from execution, but as the reality of the situation sinks in he is struck by a single thought…

‘I could have got more,’ he says, ‘I could have got more’

‘Why did I keep my car? There’s ten lives right there…and what about this…and this…’

 

He weeps as he goes through his possessions and recognises in each of them the potential to have saved life.

 

Schindler had been through a personal journey. From being a spy, a profiteer, and a member of the Nazi party, motivated solely by financial gain, he has come to see the people who are standing around him now as what they are – precious, individual, irreplaceable.

 

And as he shows here, this is painful ground to occupy. As soon as we admit to the common humanity, the importance of those in need whoever they are and wherever they are, there is no end to the sense of moral responsibility that we feel. Like him, we could give everything that we have. We could do it a thousand times over, and still feel that there was more to do.

 

It would be tempting to look at the world – at the hunger, the injustice, the cruelty, and feel defeated before we start. To ask, ‘What is the value of my humble contribution, when so much suffering and injustice remains?’ and give up on the idea of even trying. But this is not the answer.

 

What is required is a broader vision. Not just a greater number of givers, but as sense that what we do for those who need our help, and the way in which we offer it, fit into a bigger picture.

 

The whole of Jesus life was concerned with the proclamation of a New Order for the world. The Kingdom of Heaven. A dispensation in which the old rules do not hold. In which enriching you does not impoverish me. In which humanity comes to flourish not by competition, but in communion.

 

His death by crucifixion was the death that brought to an end the old order, that exposed the hypocrisy and self-serving narcissism that makes people into objects, or rather pawns to be sacrificed for ideas and institutions. His rising from the tomb presented the reality of a radically new life in which the victim is triumphant. In which violence is powerless.

 

When Jesus healed the lame, he didn’t heal them all, but he showed that wholeness and healing are God’s will for the world. When Jesus healed the blind, he didn’t heal them all, but he showed that God calls us all to see in a new way. When Jesus healed the lepers, he didn’t heal every leper, but he demonstrated God’s will to draw to himself the broken and the marginalised and the outcast. To put power into the hands of the powerless.

 

Jesus said: ‘I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends.’

 

Consider what is being said there. God in Christ is calling us his friends. God in Christ, though we are not equal to him, is setting us on an equal footing, is reaching out to us as our Lord, seeking not obedience but love. Not reward, but relationship. In doing so, he is setting us an example of how power properly relates to powerlessness.

 

It is very easy, especially amid the heated rhetoric of politics, to lose sight of the why and the how. It is tempting to see those in need as an undifferentiated lump to which we ascribe labels like ‘the unemployed’, or ‘benefits claimants, or ‘asylum seekers’. It is only when we encounter others face to face, not as benefactors (however generous we are) but as friends that we learn to ascribe value to them as we should, as Christ does.

 

This Christian Aid Week, we have an opportunity to help poorest people in the world to help themselves. To translate our abundance into abundance for others. To exchange our time and effort and money into life for other people.

 

This may be by paying for livestock, so that a mother in Ethiopia can feed her children and work her way out of poverty.

It may be by providing shelter for families made suddenly homeless by the earthquake in Nepal.

It may be by providing a safe refuge for peoples of all faiths in the Middle East fleeing from extremists.

We at St Mary’s may only be able to help a few with the money that we raise, but lives will be changed by what we can raise this week. The work of Christian Aid may only be a drop in the ocean of human misery, but there will be communities that have a future where before they had none, and, what is more, it will be a sign to the world that it is not God’s will that some should have everything, and others should have nothing. That it is not God’s will that the powerless should be left to fend for themselves.

 

Christ has called us his friends. What remains is for us to extend the hand of friendship to others as Christ has extended his to us. His kingdom is coming. May his will be done.