Simply by being with others in this kind of group, with people who are different from each other yet are committed to knowing each other intimately and healing the differences between us, we become a countercultural presence in the world. And yet there is more. We also seek to apply concretely the principles of Jesus on a broader scale, becoming “evangelists” for reconciliation and justice within the culture. We expect our life together to impact the world, even if that means becoming a threat in the same way that Jesus was a threat to the culture of his day.
We do this primarily by making Jesus central. Not the Jesus who has been made a national icon but the authentic Jesus, who said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27 28); “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3); and “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6). This is the Jesus who provoked the religious and national authorities of his time by his extravagant acts of mercy and justice. Such extravagant acts will be the hallmark of our life together.
As our burden of separateness is lifted and the Holy Spirit is allowed to reconcile us to one another, we will question what has kept us apart, what has trapped us in a system of “haves” and “have nots,” “insiders” and “outsiders,” and we will begin to consider how we might impact those systems.
The church rarely has been bold enough or organized enough to be a threat to systemic oppression. Generally we have not been willing to hold the anxiety and tension that can come from addressing the issues at all, let alone working to change the systems. As we seek to be a more authentic expression of Jesus’ life, we might look at such things as:
- a national minimum wage that is not a living wage, and does not pay people what they need to sustain a decent lifestyle
- 45 million people, some working full time, who lack health care
- companies outsourcing industry, sometimes to “sweat shops” in the third world where they can offer low wages and give decreased attentionor none at all to environmental concerns
- a penal system that punishes more than reforms and in which a disproportionate number of inmates are minority race persons
- half the world’s population (about 3 billion people) barely surviving on less than $2 a day, while 3 people report assets greater than the combined GNP of more than 30 poor countries
- the use of legalized violence, in whatever forms, as a reasonable way to handle social problems
These are only a few examples of how we seem to be living disconnected from God’s dream for us as a global family. We want more faithfully to be God’s partner in establishing restorative and nonviolent systems of justice and love for the entire creation.