Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Eleven Radical Anawim Principles

Anawim is a Hebrew word which means, in context, “the poor who seek the Lord for deliverance.”  It is used frequently in the Psalms and book of Proverbs, including Psalm 37:11, “the anawim shall inherit the earth”, which is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 5:5.  The anawim are the focus of God’s acts of salvation, and the inheritors of God’s kingdom.

Anawim is also a community church in Portland, Oregon.  It is a church whose members are from a variety of denominations, most of whom are homeless, almost all of whom are desperately poor.  Within the United States, one of the most prosperous countries on the earth, is a huge population living in what some may deem third world conditions.  Without electricity, without easy access to toilet facilities, without showers, even if they have a job, this population struggles to survive.  And this same population is targeted by local governments to be assumed to be criminals and ne’er do wells, simply because they are forced to live their poverty out in public.   This is the population of Anawim: the homeless, the mentally ill, the desperately poor, the rejected, the outcast due to economic disadvantage.

As a community, we have a number of principles by which we live, which makes us a unique church, unlike most any others.  Here are some of the principles:

1.       We not only speak of our love of God and neighbor, we show it. 
It is not enough to talk a good talk if we do not live it out.  Theology and doctrine isn’t the primary indication of being a follower of Jesus, or a member of God’s kingdom.  Living it out is. “Faith, if it has no works, is dead”
Below each of the following principles, we will describe some of the ways in which we live these principles out.

2.       Our resources are for the poor
We are not building a “Christian” community, but a community of the poor and vulnerable.  Our buildings, our finances, our worship, our housing, our food are all primarily for those who lack these very things.  We seek those who need the most in our community. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
Our facility is used to shelter those who need a secure place to be, both day and night.  Our kitchen is used primarily by the homeless who have no facility to cook in.  Our shower is used by those who have no shower.  Our bathrooms are open to those who have no place to use the bathroom. Our community house offers rest to those who do not have a place to live.

3.       We are multi-cultural
One of the gravest problems in any society is monoculturalism, the myopic viewing of the world through only one point of view.  We seek to build relationships with people of different languages, different social groups and different ethnicities so that we might learn to get out of our own narrow-mindedness, and understand the breadth of God’s variety.  “Before the throne and before the Lamb are those of every tribe and all nations, peoples and tongues.”
Our church facility is used by four different congregations: One African, one Hmong, one Hispanic and one homeless.  We invite middle class people to both serve and participate in our meals, especially to relate to our homeless and needy.

4.       We live by faith
We don’t know where tomorrow’s meal will come from.  We don’t know whether we will have tomorrow the shelter that we depended on today.  We seek God to provide for us, knowing that God often provides in the very last minute.  “Give us this day our daily bread”
Our prayer is our means of survival on a minute-by-minute basis.  As an organization, we only occasionally ask for funds, allowing the Spirit to move people to give as He sees fit.

5.       We share all that we have
We cannot live without each other, because none of us have enough to live well on our own.  When one person has an excess, then he or she shares with others, so that we may all live in plenty.  When one is lacking in basic needs, they can go to others in the community to try to meet their needs, whether food, shelter or clothing.  “There was not a needy person among them because… they would lay good at the apostle’s feet who would distribute to all who had need.”
Our facilities are set up to be places of giving and receiving, where churches and individuals can drop off their excess so that we can give it to the needy throughout Portland.

6.       We sell nothing we are given
If we receive a donation as a gift, we do not sell it to receive the money from it.  Rather, we find those who could use the donation and give it to them freely.  “Freely you have received, freely give.”
All the clothing, furniture, food and other items that Anawim receives is distributed freely to the poor in the Portland area.

7.       We disobey any law that is in disobedience to mercy
If we come against an ordinance or law that commands us not to love or show mercy to those in need, we will try to go around the law, but ultimately we must openly disobey if that is our only option.  We will always obey the higher command to love.  “We must obey God rather than men.”
We will allow people to sleep on our property in emergency situation, even when that is in opposition to local camping or housing ordinances.

8.       We make peace
We go to where there is violence and create a community of peace.  We use peacemaking principles in order to subdue violent ways and create a community that not only is at peace with itself but will create peace in the community at large.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.”
We hold biblical peacemaking trainings for the homeless and for other churches.  We constantly affirm the principles of peacemaking throughout our shelters, offering a constant training of the mind of peace.  We prevent and mediate conflict among those who come to our facility.

9.       We seek to convert the violent and immoral
We are not content to have a community of peace, but rather continue to seek the criminal and the mentally ill and the violent in order to give them an opportunity of a new life of peace in Jesus.  “Eating with the sinners and tax collectors.”
We invite anyone to eat of our food, to take showers and to get clothes, only asking that they refrain from violence on the property.  Those who attempt to bring drugs to the property or who attempt to do violence we offer alternatives.

10.   We accept suffering as our lot
We recognize that our calling is not an easy calling, and we face violence and difficulty daily.  This long term ministry (which we have been participating in for twenty years) wears on us, and we struggle to persevere.  Our neighbors, the local governments and even some of those we serve attack us and make our burden that much harder.  But we seek the Lord to give us strength and endurance.  “Without many tribulations, no one can enter the kingdom of God.”
When we are yelled at, we do not yell back.  When we are threatened, we do not threaten back. When we are hit, we do not hit back. Rather, we seek God’s mercy for all.

11.   We seek to convert the church
The church is lost, focusing on doctrine, focusing on myopic communities, focusing on the wealthy, focusing on middle class values, focusing on comforts.  We seek to remind the church of the radical message of Jesus, calling us to radical lives not just scandalous words.  Ultimately, we seek to transform the church from an entity compromised with the values of the world to step out and be truly unique in the image of Jesus.  “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

We encourage and teach radical discipleship in our denomination, and on the internet.  We partner with local churches to join us in radical giving to the poor.

To see more about Anawim, please visit our website, Nowhere To Lay His Head

No comments:

Post a Comment