Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti

Posted on May 17, 2008

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Watch this: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=4069409n

The work of Dr. Farmer and his team must be applauded. As FindingRhythm mentioned,

His story is incredible, inspiring, humbling. Playing in a rock band never seemed so lame.

While I can’t comment on playing in a rock band, this poses for me a couple observations.

1. OF ALL THE PHILOSOPHICAL AND THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS, WHAT ONE SIMPLY CANNOT ARGUE WITH, RHETORICALLY, IS GOOD WORKS/DEEDS OF COMPASSION LIKE THIS.

This is where I believe many people of faith get side-tracked. Theology is a position to be argued, a dogma to be defended, an abstract principle to be promulgated. And while that kind of work should never be discounted, it must also be said, that an argument spurs on (ironically enough) more arguments. At what point ought we come to realize that, just like the best kind of revenge, the best kind of apologetic is a life well lived. Like the grinch, your heart would have to be two-sizes too small to not be moved and inspired by this kind of work.

2. IF THEY ARE NOT AGAINST US, THEY ARE FOR US.

There is no religious discussion whatsoever in the 60 min. interview, so no inklings can be made regarding Dr. Farmer’s faith or the faith of his staff and organization. Given that, I have often wondered if Jesus’ words, here from Luke are applicable.

“Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” [1]

Mark’s parallel passages uses “us” instead of “you” in the passage, but the gist is the same. In Luke, this dialogue comes right after the disciples arguing about which of them would be the greatest. Perhaps a viable interpretation of this passage could be, it really doesn’t matter what faith system or religion one believes in. If they are accomplishing the work that is in alignment with the Kingdom of God, they are in alignment with us. AND, if we, as followers of Jesus don’t get that right, then perhaps the greatest among us are really not among us, but rather are those who are accomplishing the will of the Father in far greater ways than those “on the inside” are doing.

Controversial, I know. But like Ginsu knives, “wait…there’s more.”

3. IF THE GREATER WORK IS COMPASSIONATE DEEDS, THEN THEOLOGIES ARE SECONDARY TO THE TASK OF KINGDOM WORK.

I am perhaps falsely dichotomizing good theology and good works, [2] but I would simply point out that if I am, then how much more could the rest of the Christian Church be accused of the exact same thing. The desire to rid the Christian canon of the “Epistle of Straw” (the book of James) and the content of its message has still influenced the way we think about Jesus work and Kingdom advancement. Perhaps, looking deeper into all that the Scriptures record, we would find a different kind of dimension to the Gospel.

REGARDLESS, I applaud Dr. Paul Farmer’s work, and I too am inspired to ensure that each moment of my ministry involvement keeps this kind of compassion (רחם) at the forefront of my thinking, and a goal to which I must continually strive.

[1] Luke 9:49-50
[2] And not only dichotomizing, but neglecting a potential causal relationship, that good theology, the kind that the Scriptures exhort us to, would actually lead to good works (Ephesians 2:10).
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