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To become and to be a Christian

To become and to be a Christian is not at all an escape from the world as it is, nor is it a wistful longing for a “better” world, nor a commitment to generous charity, nor fondness for “moral and spiritual values” (whatever that may mean), nor self- serving positive thoughts, nor persuasion to splendid abstractions about God. It is, instead, the knowledge that there is no pain or privation, no humiliation or disaster, no scourge or distress or destitution or hunger, no striving or temptation, no wile or sickness or suffering or poverty which God has not known and borne for [humanity] in Jesus Christ. He has borne death itself on behalf of [humanity], and in that event he has broken the power of death once and for all.

That is the event which Christians confess and celebrate and witness in their daily work and worship for the sake of all [humanity].

To become to be a Christian is, therefore, to have the extraordinary freedom to share the burdens of the daily, common, ambiguous, transient, perishing existence of [humans beings], even to the point of actually taking the place of another [person], whether he be powerful or weak, in health or in sickness, clothed or naked, educated or illiterate, secure or persecuted, complacent or despondent, proud or forgotten, housed or homeless, fed or hungry, at liberty or in prison, young or old, white or Negro, rich or poor.

For a Christian to be poor and to work among the poor is not a conventional charity, but a use of the freedom for which Christ has set [humanity] free.

~ William Stringfellow, My People is the Enemy, 32.

3 Comments

  1. Myles wrote:

    Such a great and wildly underread thinker.

    Friday, November 4, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink
  2. David wrote:

    That builds really interestingly on what I read recently here (http://christpantokrator.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-makes-christian-christian-karth.html) on Barth’s idea of what it is that makes a Christian Christian. Stringfellow here puts more flesh on it than Barth seems to in terms of the practice of freedom that comes from sharing in the Trinitarian life, but both seem to agree that it is in our being witnesses in and to that reality that our Christian-ness lies.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 3:00 am | Permalink
  3. Kait wrote:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to use part of it in a sermon tomorrow.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

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