Want to be a Peacemaker? Get ready for some pain.

When Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed, he didn’t mean their lives would be smooth sailing.

Far from it. Jesus got crucified as a peacemaker. He was slaughtered for his uncompromising call away from personal and political agendas, agendas that had and would continue to fail at peace. He was rejected for calling his own people away from violence and into the way of God’s flourishing shalom. People hated him and killed him for it.

Peacemakers live dangerously.

Rather than enjoying an idyllic life far from the fray, peacemakers witness at the very point of conflict, crushed between warring parties and often hated by both sides.

When Jesus called the peacemakers “blessed,” he linked their action with their identity–he said that they would be called “children of God.” (Matt. 5:9) And we find out that being a child of God means experiencing some of the family pain, the rejection, the violent crushing that the Father, Son and Spirit endured through the peace-making incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is when we pursue peace and wholeness–and suffering for it–that we look most like our Triune God. The Bible’s vision of peace is more fully captured in the Hebrew word “shalom,” which is a picture of full flourishing, wholeness and rightness, for all of God’s creation–humans, animals, and the very earth itself.  And when we pursue that vision, all the powers of the world opposed to God’s renewing and recreating vision rise up to fight.

What does this mean practically? When we speak truth in love to a spouse, we may experience anger for daring to raise our voice. When we identify an area of historic injustice and seek God’s righteousness, we will face opposition, sometimes from people we thought would support us. When we call estranged people together for reconciliation, we will be accused of meddling. When we pursue more earth-careful practices for the sake of local water, we can take heat from people who should know better. I could go on.

Being peacemakers invites the same response Jesus experienced. Could this be part of what Jesus meant when he said “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”? (John 15:18 NIV) Applied more broadly, people operating through non-gospel lens will respond strongly to overtures of peace, because peace always indicates changes in heart and practice. Even professed Jesus-followers could end up hating those who make peace because their own gospel-contrary patterns of life are being confronted and urged to be transformed to God’s perfect will. 

To be children of God, we must seek the wholeness and flourishing of God’s creation, from our marriages to our businesses to God’s good earth. But making peace comes at a cost–it always has.

Is the cost worth it? Yes. Just take a look at the cross.

 

 

Love is Political

It seems like love has become more political these days. 

When I talk about God’s call to love refugees, I’m making a political statement. When I express my love for God’s creation, complete with a desire for protection and conservation, I’m labeled by certain political terms. Declare my love for an unwanted, unborn child and the mother who carries it, and another political statement has been made.

Love has become even more political in a climate of hate and fear. Political rhetoric mounts even when discussing God’s command to love the refugee, the foreigner, the disenfranchised and the dehumanized.

Love my enemy? Political.

Pray fervently for the hated political leader? Political.

Deeply desire the welfare of a person fostering and advocating very different ideals than I? Political.

Proclaim our commitment to love and support immigrants? Political. 

Stand up for the concerns of those being oppressed or negated by corporate expansion? Very political, indeed.

And with that love comes labels, arguments, misunderstandings, rejection, heat.

PC: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
But I guess that’s what we should expect. Because love is political. It always has been, at least any love that moves people beyond the realm of the normal, natural “love-for-my-own-kind” kind of love. Love is political when it begins to be shaped by the love of Jesus, who called his followers to love those everyone traditionally hated. Enemies, competitors, the other. 

And Jesus, when he lived out his words by loving the outsider, loving the less-thans, loving the despised and the cruel and the rich and the religious–Jesus was labeled a political threat, a political nightmare, a man who must be silenced. His love was dangerous to the status quo of power and comfort, both religious and political.

How easy is to forget that Jesus died a political death because of his love–love for people his peers considered unworthy, less than, dangerous and damned. Jesus loved his enemies so much he died for them (and that included me). And that love even included those who were killing him.

Love is political.

I admit, I don’t like confrontation. I hate being labeled “political.” I don’t want to bear the brunt of misunderstanding, of rejection, of dismissal. And while I do think how we express our love must be loving in and of itself, we must express it–I must express it.

I must be willing to be labeled “a bit too political”, if that charge comes from my obedience to the explicit command of Jesus to love my enemy, love the voiceless, love his world, love the lost.

Time to get loving.  

You are God’s Good Idea. In fact, everyone is.

You are God’s good idea. In fact, everything you see started out, not as a mistake or an afterthought, but as a specific and intentional act of creation by the Father, everything and everyone. That’s a transformative thought.

We just returned from our annual pastor and spouse retreat with the Covenant Church in Canada. And we were very blessed to have Steve Bell share both story and song during our time together. We both gleaned so much from this retreat, returning home refreshed and invigorated. Steve’s openhearted honesty and deep insight renewed my own heart and mind in many areas.

One was this truth that everyone we see, every inch of God’s world, is an expression of God’s good idea.gods-good-idea

Let that sink in.

Because it really changes things. We often judge something’s (or someone’s!) value based on how they are now, whether they’ve performed well or look good. But God, who is in the business of restoring the broken and redeeming the lost, is not fazed by what we’ve done or become–he knows what he is doing and longs to complete what he started. He knows what is most true about us: we are his good idea.

In spite of how screwed up we might be, what we’ve done or not done, said or not said, how we’ve lived or not lived, we are still God’s good idea, and if we could just get that, feel that, hear that, respond to that, life would change. Not only our own lives, but how we see others, how we respond to others, how we forgive and serve and pray.

So, why not let that idea seep down into your soul today? As you drive, as you work, as you listen and speak and pray, remember: everyone we see is God’s good idea. Everywhere we look, God’s good ideas are front and centre. God’s–not ours. And in grace and in love, we can treat ourselves and each other as we really are–people the Father dreamed up, folks the Father intensely loves and desires.

You are God’s good idea. And so is she. And he is, too. Just as the mountains, the elk, the poplars, the lakes are all God’s good ideas.

Can we live into that today?

Earthly Discipleship: What’s missing from Christian discipleship and needs to be recovered

Modern-day Christian discipleship is missing something central.

“Yeah, yeah,” I can hear you say. This comes as no surprise. I’m sure you could point out a lot of things that are missing. Perhaps we just don’t pray enough, haven’t learned how to read more critically, don’t care enough for others, aren’t serious about our faith, don’t this, don’t that, blah, blah, blah, and so on. But what if an entire category, a whole realm of discipleship, were missing, altogether? What then?

Because I think there is, and I think it’s earth care. To be a disciple of Jesus, we must care for God’s earth. If we don’t, our discipleship is missing something crucial, right alongside prayer or evangelism or worship or care for our neighbour.

Mother Hen and Chicks
A mother hen has tremendous instincts to lead and feed her chicks. It’s amazing to watch!

God created his human images to care for his good earth. In Genesis one, after a stunning creation start-up, God blesses his human images to “fill and govern” the whole earth, with special attention toward living creatures of sea, air and land; in chapter two, having placed the first man in a more localized garden, the Lord God tells him to “tend and watch over it.” These stories relay creation from different angles, yet both represent a basic, human calling: to be God’s images on God’s earth, expressing his ownership by helping the earth achieve its God-ordained potentiality. We were made to make God’s good creation greater. 

And yet, for some reason, caring for God’s earth isn’t even mentioned in most discussions of Christian discipleship. Many Christians, including pastors, don’t even bring in creation care when they are talking about stewardship, which I find mind-boggling. Why is this? I’m not sure but let me take a few guesses.

  • Maybe it comes from our cultural move away from an agrarian lifestyle into an industrial and now post-industrial world. We’ve become more and more disconnected from the earth, and it’s showing in our neglect.
  • It could be that our disregard of creation is the natural byproduct of a kind of spirit/matter dichotomy that has haunted Christian thinking for centuries. Matter = bad, Spirit = good, or so we’ve Platonized.
  • I suspect some Christians have bought an “end times” theology that’s led them to think this earth just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all gonna burn anyway, so why care?
  • I’m suspicious that, for some, earth care has been slighted because of its association with an environmental movement that has often been, if not explicitly anti-christian, then certainly critical toward Christianity.
  • And it could be that caring for the earth, or even admitting we should, will impact our lifestyle so much that we shy away from it, simply due to its financial implications. Like the Southern plantation owner of the 1830’s unwilling to consider humans as equals because it was bad for business, we are unwilling to care for creation because it might be bad for business, too.
Mother Goose on nest
A mother goose protecting her brood, down on Hwy 21 in Creston.

Whatever the reasons might be, the excuses are wearing thin.  If we really do believe the “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,” then surely we must care for what he has made? And if God made us in his image for the purpose of caring for this world (a mandate God never rescinded), then how can we talk about following Jesus without some sort of concern for the world he is reconciling? If God’s promise of resurrection and recreation reveals his commitment to the world, then how can we ignore it any longer?

We can’t follow Jesus and then ignore his world, for it is “through him [Jesus] God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.”  (Colossians 1:16-17 NLT)

We follow the Jesus who holds all creation together. Therefore, we must recover earth care as essential to our discipleship.

Don’t get me wrong. Many Christians are starting to embrace our calling to care for God’s earth. I am myself barely waking up to it. Terrific organizations, such as A Rocha Canada, are leading us in good directions. But as a whole, we still have far to go. Earth care is seen as the province of a few “green” Christians who live in certain (hippy) places, viewed as fad by many others.  Let me just say: If earth care seems faddish to us, it’s because we’ve so utterly misplaced our basic calling that what should be normal now looks foreign. Earth care isn’t faddish–it’s foundational.

God has made us in his image to express his caring ownership of this world. As Jesus followers, being recreated into his image, we are given the mandate to continue expressing God’s caring ownership of this world, showing his love in the ways we care for all who live on God’s good earth, be they people, animals, birds or fish.

We’ve got to recover earth care as a vital expression of our Christian discipleship. And we’ve got to do it now.

How have you seen earth care included or ignored in Christian discipleship?

Why do you think Christians have resisted caring for the earth as an expression of their faith?