Contemplation in Action (Shaine Claiborne)

Thoughts from Shane Claiborne on contemplation in action:

There’s something powerful that happens when we can connect our faith with the pain of our world. We are concerned not just with going to heaven when we die, but with bringing God’s kingdom down here. That means figuring out how we can be a part of the restoration of our world. As we look at our neighborhood, what does it mean for us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, that God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven? We pray and act for that every day because we believe that God’s kingdom is coming and we want it to come.

There’s a movement in the church to marry action and contemplation, to connect orthodoxy and orthopraxis. We’re not throwing out the things we believe, but we’re also focusing on practices that work out those beliefs. In the past few decades Christianity has primarily been about what we believe. But in Jesus we see an invitation to join our actions with a movement rather than ideas and doctrine.

I’m hopeful because people have grown tired of a Christianity that can say what it believes on paper but doesn’t have anything to show with our lives. Ideologies and doctrines aren’t easy things to love. That’s why I think we need to lift up examples of people who have joined their faith and action, folks like Francis and Clare of Assisi. Mother Teresa has also been a hero of mine.

What I love about Mother Teresa is that her life was her witness. She wasn’t a champion of unborn children because she wore a t-shirt that said “Abortion Is Murder,” but because she welcomed mothers and children. In essence, she said, “If you can’t raise your child, we’ll do it together.” That’s the kind of embodiment that comes as we seek to marry our beliefs to our actions. As Brian McLaren says, “It’s not just are we pro-life or pro-choice, but how are we pro-active?” Are we willing to take responsibility for our ideologies? In my neighborhood that means we’ve got to care for a fourteen-year-old girl and her child together.

Mother Teresa’s message was, “Calcutta is everywhere, if we only have eyes to see.” Pray that God would help us see our own Calcutta: the pain, poverty, loneliness, and ostracizing that happens all over. Each of us encounters situations that demand both prayer and activism. Pray that God would give us the eyes to see the pain of our neighborhoods.

Adapted by Richard Rohr from Shane Claiborne, When Action Meets Contemplation, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010)