Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Way of Jesus: Poverty, Ecology, and Community

[This is a short 500 word meditation that I wrote about justice and community to submit to a journal.]

Five years ago, my wife and I joined a group of young emerging church planters who moved to northern California from Orange County to start a faith community. We united in our passion for working for justice together, especially poverty and environmental issues, as well as developing deep relationships within the church and our community. While our reading of the bible shaped our vision for the church, we primarily concentrated on trying to follow in the way of Jesus. But a surprising thing happened when we did this: we found ourselves agreeing with groups of Christians outside our original evangelical context.

Gustavo GutiƩrrez
On poverty, our community discovered with Latin American liberation theologians that in Jesus, we see that God has a ‘preferential option for the poor.’ As Gustavo GutiĆ©rrez points out, Jesus in Matthew 25 proclaims a shocking identity “between a deed of love in behalf of the poor and a deed done in behalf of the Son of Man…to give one’s life for justice is to give it for Christ himself.” As such, the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed made a demand on us to work on behalf of the poor and marginalized in our area, opposing ways of life that did not benefit them.

On ecology, we realized that if God, out of love for the world was incarnate in the human Jesus, and if God raised him as a further sign of love for creation, then matter – and not just human bodies – really matters to God, and should matter to us too. With our liberal Christian neighbors then, our community made the environment a priority and found ourselves agreeing with ecological theologians like John Cobb, who in commenting on the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:26 and 10:31 writes, “if a man is worth many sparrows then a sparrow’s worth is not zero.”

On community, we noticed that Jesus’ 1st century movement of men and women disciples was grounded in the proclamation of the basileia tou theou, perhaps best translated as ‘commonweal of God.’ This politically subversive hope was based on a vision of God’s future for the world, bringing freedom from domination at every level of society. In response, we sought to shape our faith community on the commonweal vision of Jesus as a sign of this hopeful future – a scandalizing alternative to Caesar, emphasizing equality, mutuality, and inclusiveness. We found ourselves embracing what feminist theologians like Elizabeth Johnson called Jesus’ ‘inclusive table community’, which “widens the circle of friends of God to include the most disvalued people, even tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes.”

Sometimes following Jesus gets you into trouble, which our church experienced at times when we started to look ‘liberal.’ But this is no surprise to those of us who try to faithfully follow the crucified one. There is nothing easy about this way of justice and community, but it is right if we believe that as the incarnation of the Word, Jesus reveals the inner logic of things, the grain of the cosmos itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment