Amor Mundi, as Explained by Richard Foster

I just had one of those “That’s it!” moments.  So I wanted to share it.  Have you ever felt that you were getting more steady and solid in your faith, only to then feel more unnerved and toppled and helpless in the face of so much suffering in the world?  I’ve had that feeling lately and especially as I wonder how I could live more deliberately, with some jubilee principles, when the needs are so many and so massive.  

Richard Foster, in a piece on spiritual formation for Christianity Today, posted February 4, 2009, says the following:

“Finally, we come to the issue of cultural renewal, or what in theology is called the “cultural mandate.” I can only hint here at what that might look like.

“The devotional masters write much about training the heart in two opposite directions: contemptus mundi, our being torn loose from all earthly attachments and ambitions, and amor mundi, our being quickened to a divine but painful compassion for the world.

“In the beginning God plucks the world out of our hearts—contemptus mundi. Here we experience a loosening of the chains of attachment to positions of prominence and power. All our longings for social recognition, to have our name in lights, begin to appear puny and trifling. We learn to let go of all control, all managing, all manipulation. We freely and joyfully live without guile. We experience a glorious detachment from this world and all it offers.

“And then, just when we have become free from it all, God hurls the world back into our heart—amor mundi—where we and God together carry the world in infinitely tender love. We deepen in our compassion for the bruised, the broken, the dispossessed. We ache and pray and labor for others in a new way, a selfless way, a joy-filled way. Our heart is enlarged toward those on the margins. Indeed, our heart is enlarged toward all people, toward all of Creation.

“It was amor mundi that hurled Patrick back to Ireland to be the answer to its spiritual poverty. It was amor mundi that thrust Francis of Assisi into his worldwide ministry of compassion for all people, for all animals, for all Creation. It drove Elizabeth Fry into the hellhole of Newgate prison, and prompted William Wilberforce to labor his entire life for the abolition of the slave trade. It sent Father Damien to live and suffer and die among the lepers of Molokai, and propelled Mother Teresa to minister among the poorest of the poor in India and throughout the world.

“And it is amor mundi that compels millions of ordinary folk like you and me to minister life in Christ’s good name to our neighbor, our nigh-bor: “the person who is near us.”

I truly hope I have a little amor mundi developing in me. 

To read the whole article: 


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