Thursday, November 6, 2008
Some Random Thoughts on What We are Really All About
I never really thought about "attacking injustice", "fighting for peace ("shalom" in Hebrew on right. T-shirts coming soon!)", and "fighting against oppression" until I started studying Isaiah 58:6-12 about ten years ago. After my first visit to the rez in the summer of 2000 I was "haunted by" that passage and very disturbed by a growing awareness that "all was not well" in the good ole USA. I began to suspect that the "American Dream" (which I had been pursuing without really admitting it) might not really run parallel to the Gospel as I had come to believe.
The idea of fighting for "truth and justice" sounds like a job for Superman. So when I ran across those concepts in Isaiah 58 and other places in Scripture I figured the passages didn't apply to me since I'm obviously not a superhero. I thought that maybe those admonitions were were intended for judges, lawyers, politicians, etc. Over time I realized that the Lord is calling every Christian to "throw their life" at a problem too big to be changed unless "the Lord shows up in power". I also began to see that Isaiah 58 breaks it down for knuckleheads like me. The Lord says that "fighting for justice and against oppression" initially looks like "sharing your bread with the hungry", "your clothes with the naked", and "providing the poor wanderer with shelter" or "bringing the homeless poor into your home". After all, that is exactly what Jesus has done for us! That is our story. He has fed us (with his body), he has clothed us (with his robes of righteousness and Himself, we are "in Him"), and brought us into His family (He is our refuge).
The "apple doesn't fall from the tree". If we love the Father we will love what He loves and do what He does. It involves sacrifice. Initially, loving our neighbor is not a "win win" proposition. They win and we lose. However, we are willing to lose because Christ lost it all for us and He "has our back". Isaiah 58 promises that "the glory of the Lord will be our rear guard". It also promises that as we go out on a limb for Him and see our desperate need for Him (and the desperate need of the broken, fallen, horror-filled world around us) He will "strengthen our frame, guide us always, and satisfy our needs in a sun-scorched land". It promises that He will "make us like a well watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail" in the desert. In essence, He can and will make us like an oasis in the desert where people come to find life through the "Living Water" that flows through us.
My favorite preacher, Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York, says that God's Shalom comes in the midst of "tight, open community" where our lives are like a "tapestry". That is our lives are "close knit, over, under, around and through each other". A fabric (and a community) like that is strong, warm, and intricately beautiful. It is a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God. It is the kind of community people long to be a part of. That's what we are after, what we are about. When you stop and think about it, that's what "church planting" really is.
If you've every been part of a group of any sort (a team, a class, a club, a church, etc.) and I know you have, you know that "shalom" does not happen "naturally". A group may be open (to strangers and outsiders) but it will not be tight or close knit. A group may be "close knit" (like the mafia) but it will not be open. True "shalom" is a miracle. It is something only the Lord can create or give. We take heart in the promise of Jesus, "I will build my church" and in the fact that "every tongue, every tribe, and every nation" will be represented about His throne on the day of "Ultimate Shalom".
Over time we will see His justice, His truth, His love, and His peace (shalom) prevail against all odds. May it be so.
Take some time to consider these concepts in light of what you've learned about Native America as well as what is going on in your own neighborhood.
Please roll these ideas around, talk about them, pray about them, and pray that the Lord does this in and through us and the baby church we have here on the rez. Thanks!
Grace and Peace!
"Shalom" means "peace" in often represents a peace symbol.
Shalom (שָׁלוֹם) is a Hebrew word meaning peace, completeness, and welfare and can be used idiomatically to mean hello, and goodbye. As it does in English, it can refer to either peace between two entities (especially between man and God or between two countries), or to the well-being, welfare or safety of an individual or a group of individuals. The word is also found in many other expressions and names
The Word "shalom" can be used for all parts of speech; as a noun, adjective, verb, and as an adverb. It categorizes all shaloms. The word shalom is used in a variety of expressions and contexts in Hebrew speech and writing:
Shalom aleichem (שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם; "well-being be upon you" or "may you be well"), this expression is used to greet others and is a Hebrew equivalent of "hello". Also, for example; "shabat shalom!" The appropriate response to such a greeting is "upon you be well-being" ( עֲלֵיכֶם שָׁלוֹם, aleichem shalom). This is a cognate of the Arabic Assalamu alaikum. On Erev Shabbat (Sabbath eve), Jewish people have a custom of singing a song which is called Shalom aleichem, before the Kiddush over wine of the Shabbat dinner is recited.
In the Gospels, Jesus often uses the greeting "Peace be unto you," a translation of shalom aleichem.
Dr. Timothy Keller on Shalom
So Christians work for the peace, security, justice, and prosperity of their (larger community) and their neighbors, loving them in word and in deed, whether they believe what we do or not. In Jeremiah 29:7, Israel's exiles were called not just to live in the city/larger community, but also to love it and work for its shalom—its economic, social, and spiritual flourishing. The citizens of God's (Kingdom) are the best possible citizens of their earthly (communities).
This is the only kind of cultural engagement that will not corrupt us and conform us to the world's pattern of life. If Christians (seek) simply to acquire power, they will never achieve cultural influence and change that is deep, lasting, and embraced by the broader society. We must live in the (larger community) to serve all the peoples in it, not just our own tribe. We must lose our power to find our (true) power. Christianity will not be attractive enough to win influence except through sacrificial service to all people, regardless of their beliefs.
This strategy (if we must call it that) will work. In every culture, some Christian conduct will be offensive and attacked, but some will be moving and attractive to outsiders. "Though they accuse you — they may see your good deeds and glorify God" (1 Peter 2:12, see also Matt. 5:16). In the Middle East, a Christian sexual ethic makes sense, but not "turn the other cheek." In secular New York City, the Christian teaching on forgiveness and reconciliation is welcome, but our sexual ethics seem horribly regressive. Every non-Christian culture has enough common grace to recognize some of the work of God in the world and to be attracted to it, even while Christianity in other ways will offend the prevailing culture.
So we must neither just denounce the culture nor adopt it. We must sacrificially serve the common good, expecting to be constantly misunderstood and sometimes attacked. We must walk in the steps of the one who laid down his life for his opponents.
It will not be enough for Christians to form a culture that runs counter to the values of the broader culture. Christians should be a community radically committed to the good of the (larger community) as a whole. We must move out to sacrificially serve the good of the whole human community, especially the poor. Revelation 21-22 makes it clear that the ultimate purpose of redemption is not to escape the material world, but to renew it. God's purpose is not only saving individuals, but also inaugurating a new world based on justice, peace, and love, not power, strife, and selfishness.
(Taken from http://www.christianvisionproject.com/2006/06/a_new_kind_of_urban_christian.html)
Cornelius Plantinga on Shalom
The prophets knew how many ways human life can go wrong because they knew how many ways human life can go right. (You need the concept of a wall on a plumb to tell when one is off.). These prophets kept dreaming of a time when God would put things right again.
They dreamed of anew age in which human crookedness would be straightened out, rough places made plain. The foolish would be made wise and the wise, humble. They dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, the mountains would run with wine, weeping would cease and people could go to sleep without weapons on their laps. People would work in peace and work to fruitful effect. Lambs could lie down with lions. All nature would be fruitful, benign, and filled with wonder upon wonder; all humans would be knit together in brotherhood and sisterhood; and all nature and all humans would look to God, walk with God, lean toward God and delight in God. Shouts of joy and recognition would well up from valleys and seas, from women in streets and from men on ships.
The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.
(Taken from http://jollyblogger.typepad.com/jollyblogger/2007/10/cornelius-plant.html October 18, 2007)
Paul's signature expression: "Grace and peace." This greeting is found in some form at the opening of all of Paul's epistles, most commonly, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
What many don't realize is that Paul coined a new phrase. "Grace" or "Grace to you" sounded like the standard Greek greeting, but was infused with theological meaning. On the other hand, "Peace" was a Jewish blessing that sounds weightier in the Hebrew: "Shalom."
Paul knew that many of his congregations were torn by factional strife. But he didn't say, "Grace to you Gentiles, and shalom to you Jews." Grace is not just for Greeks, and peace is not just for Jews. God's desire was for the whole community to receive his grace and experience his shalom—not merely the absence of conflict, but the fullness of well being, harmony, wholeness, and life.
So Paul said, "Grace and peace to you." Paul addressed Gentile and Jewish believers together, as members of one body. He wrote in continuity with their cultural and ethnic backgrounds, yet pointed to a new, countercultural reality. He combined a Greek greeting and a Hebrew greeting to create a distinctively Christian greeting.
Paul did not neuter the cultural particulars of the church's constituents. Nor did he emphasize identity politics or pit categories against each other. Instead, he affirmed the communities' distinct identities, then transcended them to forge a new identity in which the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. He modeled unity amid cultural diversity, as experienced in the church's birth at Pentecost. If Paul were writing today, he might choose other vocabulary and language to bridge contemporary divides: "Hola and howdy, y'all, in the name of Jesus." Or, "Salaam and shalom to you."
(Taken from “Grace and Peace” by Al Hsu from Christianity today June , 2008)
Howard Zehr is director of the Conflict Transformation Program at Eastern Mennonite University and author of Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice. He spoke with Timothy C. Morgan about the basics of restorative justice.
Restorative justice revolves around three concepts: Harm, obligation, and engagement. It says what really matters about the wrongdoing is the harm that's been done. One goal is to meet the needs of those who have been harmed. The second goal is to hold people accountable to meet obligations. A third is to involve those impacted to the extent possible because being engaged is such an important part of the experience of justice. The goals are to meet victims' needs and the offenders' needs.
One Rwandan student who lost his whole family in the genocide took our restorative justice class [at Eastern Mennonite]. One requirement is that students explain restorative justice to someone who's never heard about it. He decided to tell his new wife. She started laughing at him and said, "You came all the way over here and spent all this money to learn what every African already knows." The challenge today is meshing the criminal justice approach and the indigenous approach.
The criminal justice approach, whether it be in Rwanda or elsewhere, is very offender-oriented. The victim has very little place and gets frustrated with that process. But we need both. There are places where they are being used conjointly in very useful ways.
(taken from “A Justice that Restores,
A method for bringing victims and offenders together.”
An interview with Howard Zehr)