Thursday, 17 November 2016

Extreme Do-Gooding

I have been reading Larissa MacFarquhar’s Strangers Drowning, sub-titled Voyages to the Brink of Moral Extremity. It is a fascinating exploration of what might be called ‘extreme do-going’. It offers the stories a number of people who go to extraordinary lengths to help others. There are a couple who can’t stop adopting unwanted children, a Buddhist monk who spends all his time helping those, often suicidal, at the extremes of life, those who just try to make as much money as possible so that they can maximise what they give away.  And so on.

I suppose it is like the parable that Jesus told about a Samaritan. We tend to refer to that story as that of the ‘good’ Samaritan – though Jesus himself did not use that adjective. Here are some stories of some ‘very good’ Samaritans.

Is this the way to go? Is this a book telling us that most of us are not doing nearly enough? Though I was left gasping with admiration at what a few folk manage to do, I was not convinced that we either can, or should, try and roll out such a programme. It is difficult to criticise those who do these things, and it is true that we often don’t do as much as we should. I am sure that God often wants to challenge us to do more – but I am not sure that we need to go to the extremes. The problem is that we are often walking by on the other side – and that is not the role of the church.

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