Take 14-year old Ana. She has just realized that the respectable job offered by the nice Mexican lady is not what she thought. How she wishes she were back in Guatemala with her family instead of imprisoned in this horrendous hole of a brothel!
It is not a good morning for Carlos, who has been put on a plane and sent ‘back’ to a country he has not lived in since he was too young to remember, nor for Maria, his 4 year-old daughter who will not be picked up at day-care this afternoon. Nor for Ashley, who was raped last night by her stepfather. Nor for Rose, whose son Trevor has been in jail for months for a crime he did not commit, simply because of the color of his skin. Nor for Abdul, whose children were killed by Israeli shells on their way to school. This is not a good morning for far too many people in our world, broken as it is by greed and corruption, injustice and poverty.
In the midst of these realities, as followers of Jesus we cannot avoid asking, Are there any grounds to hope that tomorrow Ana, Carlos, Maria, Ashley, Rose, Trevor and Abdul could possibly say: good morning? Is there any good news for them? Does God care about their situation? And if so, what is our part in God’s mission as followers of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit in relation to them and the millions like them?
Within a perspective on theology and faith called 'integral mission', all the Church is, does and says is an expression of God’s mission. The gospel is proclaimed, as we see clearly in the letters of Paul and the book of Acts. But how is this good news to be spread? How will it become truly good news to all people?
'Whatever happens', Paul insists, 'conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.' What does living lives worthy of the gospel actually look like?
Because the good news of Christ is about true peacemaking and reconciliation, living in a way worthy of the gospel means choosing peace making and reconciliation as ways of life. This is no facade of peace, nor the indifferent ‘live and let live’ of self-centered consumer society. Instead, it means opting for what really matters, the tough and daily road of awareness, confession, forgiveness and self-sacrifice. Awareness and confession regarding how complicit or indifferent we are with oppression, violence, and the global war machine. Together with mutual forgiveness and personal self-sacrifice as building blocks of a close-knit community renewed by God’s outrageous and non-discriminatory love. This is how it should be.
Living in a way worthy of the gospel means choosing peace making and reconciliation as ways of life
Because the good news of Christ is not limited to some spiritual or religious dimension of life, living in a way worthy of the gospel means living as Jesus Christ did in all realms and relationships. No area of life is out of the bounds of Christ’s lordship.
There is no room for flimsy nominalism or mere intellectual assent to some correct doctrine. The good news of God’s expansive love forces Christ-followers on to our knees in prayer, it opens our pockets in joyous giving, it propels us into relationships as uncomfortable and unlikely as those for which Jesus was criticized. 'He hangs out with the wrong people, was the rumor that circulated about him… You know, prostitutes, corrupt government officials, even people related to the oppressive occupying army!'
So, is there good news, we asked at the beginning, for Ana, Carlos, Maria, Rose Trevor, and Abdul? I have no doubt there is, if we allow God’s Spirit to breathe new creation into us and imbed us anew into God’s love story, into that seamless weaving of life-granting relationships. Then, and only then, can we grow into a welcoming and forgiving community, and together embody the image of the community-of-love in the real world while we yearn and wait for the full restoration of all things.
Then we might free Ana from the brothel while also committing to jubilee and to erasing the structural inequity that sends thousands of girls into modern slavery.
Then we might ensure that Carlos finds a loving community in his new place while also engaging in immigration reform and tackling the justice issues surrounding current massive deportations.
Then we might personally pick up Maria from day-care and give her a caring home until things are sorted out.
Then we might accompany Ashley in her recovery while also fighting against sexism and impunity.
Then we might spend time with Rose while also taking collective responsibility for the long tentacles of racism that are depriving so many like Trevor of full life.
Then we might befriend Abdul, while also praying, advocating, and acting for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel today.
Then and only then we might contribute to making possible good mornings for God’s beloved Ana, Carlos, Maria, Ashley, Rose, Trevor and Abdul. May it be so by God’s grace.
Ruth Padilla DeBorst is part of INFEMIT, the International Fellowship for Mission as Transformation.
This series of articles is a summary of talks given to the Keswick Convention 2014. The audio of the talk is available free on www.keswickministries.org