“From the Outside into the Center” or “From the Center Out”?

24 May

In his recent book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Greg Mortenson describes his strategy for providing good, high quality, secular education, especially for girls, in the most forgotten places in these two countries. Where most non-profits begin at the center and move outwards, Mortenson begins at the end of the road, even where there is no road, and works back toward the center. What a radical idea!

I think about my own life. Usually, I start at the center- my family, my friends, my neighbors, my work, the people who are good to me. First, I try to love these folks well. Then I try to work from this center, outwards.

Yet Mortenson’s strategy makes me think again (= one definition of the word “repent”). What if I attempted to love the most annoying, hateful, disagreeable people first? What if I began with the people who can’t stand me and gave them compassion first? What if I worked from the “outside backwards toward the center”  instead of “from the center and worked out”?

Could this be what Jesus is talking about in Luke 6:32-36?

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Lord Jesus, help me to those near to my heart and those far away. Amen.

Stay in One Peace (Christ’s), Tim


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