Thoughts on Invictus: Part 6

This past semester I taught a class on “Christian Perspectives in Contemporary Culture.”  One of the themes the class focused on was justice, not justice in the court system but justice in the economic, political and racial sense—the goal is full reconciliation.  I had the class read a work by John Perkins, With Justice for All: A Strategy for Community Development

Perkins has been a pioneer the establishment of justice in rural Mississippi, an area where racial hatred and oppression survives to this day.  In telling the story of his escape to Los Angeles and a better life, his conversion to Christ, and his call back to Mississippi he challenges his brothers and sisters in Christ to take the call for justice seriously as a vital implication of the gospel (a theme which we find prominently in Scripture but which somehow falls pretty much on deaf ears in the American evangelicalism).  Perhaps this is because we think of the gospel in terms of witnessing rather than understanding the gospel as being about the inexpressible love of the Father, Son and Spirit for their creation and God’s passionate heart that has accomplished reconciliation through the person of Christ.

As Paul says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19 NET) or as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.”

More info on Forgiveness and Reconciliation:

Free e-book, “Love Killer Solutions”

Online course, “Freedom to Love Again”

January 29, 2010. Tags: , . Food For Thought. Leave a comment.

Thoughts on Invictus: Part 5

Forgiveness is something we all talk about as being foundational to Christianity. (Love is foundational to forgiveness.) The first Bible verse that many of us learned, John 3:16, states: “For God (the Father) so loved the world, he gave his only-begotten Son (i.e. His unique and eternal son with whom He was in face to face relationship for all ante-mundane eternity) so that everyone who believes in him will not perish (or be lost) but have eternal life (participation in the very life of the Trinity).”  Love is foundational to forgiveness; forgiveness is vitally wound up in justification by faith alone.  To vastly oversimplify it, we are declared “not guilty” by God because of the sacrifice of Christ—we stand forgiven, totally, forever and unconditionally!

If we are honest, we must admit that while we cling to the fact that we are forgiven, we are ourselves not good at forgiving others.  Oh, we don’t have much trouble brushing off minor offenses but those who have betrayed us and inflicted damage?  Here we do not want to forgive; we want justice, or better yet, revenge.  Yet refusing to forgive, however imperfectly, keeps our souls from healing and perpetuates hatred and violence.

During the past several years I have been confronted with injustice and oppression in an up-close and personal fashion as I have ministered in Bulgaria.  We as Americans think of racial oppression in terms of the Black-White divide in American culture (or maybe the apartheid of South Africa).  I have witnessed the oppression of the Roma people (gypsies) in a manner reminiscent of the ghettos in which the Jews were for centuries placed in Europe.  Jewish ghettos in Europe were not an invention of the Nazis; rather they were instituted centuries ago during the Renaissance by Christian political authorities who marginalized Jews because of their non-Christian beliefs.  The Gypsy people too are historically non-Christian who migrated westward from the Indian sub-continent about a thousand years ago.  As a people group they settled mainly in Eastern and Central Europe and remain unassimilated to this day.  The song “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” popularized by Cher in the early 70’s reflects the majority population attitude toward them to this day. 

In Bulgaria, under Communism, the government erected walls around gypsy communities to further separate them from the larger population. The Roma people in Bulgaria are largely illiterate to this day, and it has only been in the past couple of decades or so that the gospel has begun to penetrate these closed communities. Bulgaria specifically and eastern and central Europe generally stand in need of racial, cultural, and economic reconciliation and justice. 

The problem runs deep in that culture, and in a sense, in every culture. Fortunately I have seen a few glimmers of hope in Bulgaria, largely through the ministries of Care For All.

Coming Up: In my next post I’ll share about an exciting pioneer in the establishment of justice in rural America.

January 27, 2010. Tags: , . Food For Thought. Leave a comment.