When I was in college there was a big push in the campus ministry I was a part of to find a mixed congregation in which to worship and eventually, to relocate, to put down roots in impoverished communities. I was swept away by this idea. But most of all I was swept away by guilt.
Was I really following Jesus if I just wanted to live a privileged white life? Would God still like me if I decided I wasn’t ready to devote my life to service? Was living amongst the poor really the calling for everyone, as I thought was being suggested?
With the popularity of Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution, this idea gained even more traction in Christian culture. But I was plagued by questions: what if well-meaning Christians did more harm than good? Would I become a tool of gentrification? Like the colonizers before me, would I simply be moving in with my ideas and programs, gained by a high-priced education, while doing little to empower the people I wanted to help? And most agonizing, did staying put mean I wasn’t a real Christ follower?
In my own life, few of these questions have satisfactory answers. Living in a white, affluent part of my city, I am mostly cut off from the daily struggles of those who have been marginalized and pushed aside in our society.
While agonizing over the move to a new house I remembered the words of Jesus, “do it for love.” Guilt is a terrible reason to make a decision. I don’t know a lot, but I know this: our decisions must be motivated by love or we will do harm.