Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mind the Gap!

If you’ve ever been to London then you’ve probably ridden the “tube” – the mass transit system. If you’ve ridden the tube then you’ve heard the phrase “mind the gap.” At every stop a recorded message warns everyone to be careful of the gap between the rail car and the train platform. Mind the gap – watch your step – be careful.

I think that the mission of God includes all of humanity “minding the gap”. The gap that we’re to mind is the gap between the current situation in the world and God’s intended design – His kingdom coming – His dream for how things should be in the world. I don’t think God is warning us to be careful. I think He invites us into the gaps to bring his kingdom to the places where it hasn’t come yet. And by the way, I don’t think that “the kingdom” is simply getting souls saved. Jesus came announcing and demonstrating the kingdom of God. He also denounced those things that were preventing the kingdom from coming.

In Luke 4: 18-19 Jesus said “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed m to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And then in verse 21 he said “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” In Matthew 25 Jesus invites us into the same kind of activity and says that “whenever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.”

Jesus never defined for us, clearly what the kingdom is. He always said “the kingdom is like…” He told us that the kingdom was near. “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 10:9) He later said that “the kingdom is within you.” (Luke17: 21) In the Gospel of John he said that his kingdom was from another place. It isn’t like the kingdoms of this world. In the model prayer he said to pray that God’s kingdom would come and that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom is near and every person as the capacity for kingdom living within them. Pray for the kingdom to come in the here and now and then join with God in making his dream for the world come true.
In Romans 14: 17 Paul says that the kingdom of God is justice, wholeness, & celebration (my favorite paraphrase). The kingdom is a world where every person gets treated fairly and rightly. It’s a world where all of creation is restored to wholeness. And it’s a world where we celebrate and rejoice in the Holy Spirit.

I believe that you and I are called and sent to represent God’s dream for the world. It is our task to create foretastes of God’s kingdom here on earth. We are to “mind the gaps.” As we take on the gaps – God joins us in the work of His mission.

As followers of the way of Jesus we represent the reign of God in the world. We represent the reign of God by “being” different - we love one another.

As followers of the way of Jesus we serve the reign of God. We mind the gap by “doing” acts of mercy, restoring justice, and working for peace.

As followers of the way of Jesus we announce the reign of God. We “speak” good news of inclusion, grace & forgiveness.

Where are the “gaps” in the kingdom around you? What are you doing to “mind” the gaps?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Are You a Peacemaker?

“A much neglected aspect of the mission of Jesus according to Luke is that of peace-making, of nonviolent resistance to evil, of the futility and self-destructive nature of hatred and vengeance.” (Transforming Mission by David J. Bosch - Page 118)

“God blesses those who work for peace for they will be called the children of God”. (Matthew 5:9 - New Living Translation)

Those who work for peace are people who accurately reflect the character and nature of God.

Being a peacemaker is restoring “Shalom”. It is restoring wholeness, completeness, or soundness.

I think there are three possible ways of being:
1.I can be a peacekeeper. Peacekeepers are appeasers. They just want everyone to get along. Let’s just keep quiet about anything controversial and let’s just keep everyone happy. Peacekeepers don’t talk about what they really feel or think. Peacekeepers protect themselves by not risking.
(Unfortunately I’ve come to realize that I’ve lived most of my life as a peacekeeper.)

2.I can be a troublemaker. Troublemakers demand that things be done their way. Troublemakers think they are right and everyone else is wrong. Troublemakers don’t care if people get hurt or what kind of damage they leave behind. Troublemakers protect themselves and there way by attacking.

3.I can be a peacemaker. Peacemakers work to create conditions for peace.

a.Peacemakers speak the truth in love. They “say what is so” for them. They speak out against injustice and oppression. (Ephesians 4:15)

b.Peacemakers forgive and offer grace to others. Peacekeepers don’t hold grudges, or have deep seated resentments. (Ephesians 4: 31-32)

c.Peacemakers initiate reconciliation. Peacemakers don’t wait for someone else or something else. (Matthew 5:23-24 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

d.Peacemakers don’t retaliate or seek revenge. Peacemakers remain calm. (Matthew 5: 38-42)

e.Peacemakers take action against injustice and oppression. Sometimes in order to be a peacemaker a person appears to be a troublemaker. Jesus modeled this when he cleared the temple. (Matthew 10:34) I think those involved in the civil rights movement modeled this as well.

Peacemakers don’t protect themselves. They are courageous risk-takers.

Peacemakers take a stand against “non-peace” and help to restore wholeness. Some define sin as “shalom” breaking. Anywhere or anytime wholeness or completeness is broken it is sin. I think it’s possible to be a really “nice” peacekeeper and to be sinning by allowing brokenness to remain.

Becoming a peacemaker requires courage, intentionality, & perseverance. If you decide to become a peacemaker you will have to fight for it in your own life.

“Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of justice/righteousness.” James 3:18