This is a reflection from my last year at CBC that Christina thought I should post. Does it spark any thoughts?
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today, is Christians, who acknowledges with their lip and walk out the door and get on with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Remember this?
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
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.”
(Luke 4:18–19 NIV)
What characterizes a disciple?
As I sat down to reflect and draw my thoughts to the front of my mind, I thought about the transparency that we have enjoyed in this classroom and the relationship that has developed between us. When my mind found rest the theological bubble that rose to the top was obvious. As a boy trained up in modern categorical thinking I spoke my question into existence, “did Jesus come to preach or to live the good news of the Kingdom of God?” This question carries a lot of baggage for me so please forgive me if you’ve heard this from me before, but this is my story.
I grew up with a theological foundation that prioritized preaching, prayer and holiness with the hope that if people are saved one-at-a-time then we will have a transformed world. I think I was taught that my role was to walk hand in had with nonChristians toward Jesus and after he takes their hand I can let go and find another person to bring or drag toward him. My assumption was that Jesus would transform them once they became Christians.
Then I got married and marriage brings many different things, including new theological perspectives and personal stories that give life to how God leads people to what they believe.
My wife’s family is very Anabaptist, meaning they fit into Harold Bender’s definition of the Anabaptist Vision. They believe life in Christ is about committed discipleship, which was different than my understanding that life in Christ is about a moment of salvation and transformation. Secondly, they understand that a person is a follower of Christ rather than a believer in Christ, meaning, we choose to follow Jesus daily we do not passively wait for him to change us. Finally, they believe that a follower of Jesus must live a life of peace (Shalom) and nonviolence and that didn’t seem relevant to me.
One year after Christina and I were married we left for the Philippines on my ICS internship where we witnessed bombing, military checkpoints, internally displaced people and “stupid poverty” as Bono put it. I started to see the gospels in the context they were written. They were written to a nation oppressed by Rome and waiting for a savior who would lead them to military victory. But, when He came He demonstrated his love for all by living and teaching justice and mercy for the “other.” He lived shalom with all people. I saw Jesus through the eyes of the oppressed and I understood the liberation theology of Oscar Romero, Dom Helder Camera and Mother Theresa. His image is in the other and as followers of Jesus we must lift up the poor paralytic, the roman soldier, the widows son, the sinful woman, the Samaritan and Zacchaeus the Tax collector just as He did. All of these people in the gospel of Luke were examples outsiders to the Jewish system and Jesus brought them all shalom in different ways.
My assumption that someone needs to be preached at to receive the good news was challenged by this experience. “What is following Christ if someone does not really follow him in action? Can there be a Christian believer and not a do-er?” In my passion, fueled by the stupid poverty and by systems of injustice that I am part of, I came back to Canada screaming, “No! You cannot just believe, you must follow in obedience!”
The scripture I read, Luke 4:18-19, became a call to action for me this last year. Bring good news to the poor, bring freedom to the prisoners, and release the oppressed. The gospel must be lived in order to change the world and bring the evidence of the Kingdom of God. Now I see in hindsight, I tried to leave much of what I grew up with as I reacted to the injustice I saw and in this reaction I lost my balance and changed from a caricature of a soapbox preacher at YWAM to a liberator with the passion and fervor of Che’ Guevara.
For the past few months, I have been in the gap of living my faith recklessly and preaching the faith recklessly because both of the Mennonite perspectives I’ve described symbolize the different families that I represent. Through this reflection exercise I have decided that I have struggled long enough between the two. I am wrong when I think that I have to pick a side. “When faced with two options, choose the third,” says an old Hebrew proverb and so I have chosen to lead my family a different way. We will live our faith and testify about the goodness of our God in bold actions and words.
He does give us breath and that is something a hurting the world should know I am thankful for. He does call me to obediently sacrifice myself for a single parent or an addict and live my life obediently as a disciple of Christ. The important thing enmesh in my thinking is that these two perspectives, speaking and actions, were not exclusive in Jesus, they were always integrated.
This may not be new for some of you, but the conclusion was for me. Jesus commanded me to live as an obedient disciple that sacrifices time, money and comfort for the literal and figurative oppressed, blind, prisoner and poor. And because this is good news I am going to testify why.