God’s kingdom proclaimed and enacted
Jesus came to announce that the world – as we know it – was coming to a close. What was ending? Not its existence, but the way it was ruled.
Since Eden, the world had been fallen; the standard was that power instead of love ruled human affairs, and so necessarily some would have to come out on top while others would be ground in misery under them. Justice had fled. In the three days at the centre of human history, Jesus would change all that. As the creation crucified its creator in an attempt to assert its usurped authority, it completely discredited itself. And so, as God raised Jesus from the dead, he gave back to his Son “all authority in heaven and on earth”. But Jesus’ Kingdom would not come with violent overthrow, it would simply subvert the other rule by refusing to submit to its ways. Now, those experiencing this Kingdom would see the signs of new life coming even while death was still present: love would be willing to suffer violence without returning it; sickness would heal from simple prayer; demons would leave upon command; forgiveness would be given and received even in the midst of the worst human sins. Eternal life began blooming while the snow still lay melting.
It is our practice, as Jesus instructed us, to announce this good news that he is the Lord. Words are good, and demonstration is even better. The signs of sickness and spiritual darkness losing its grip on people show that a real cosmic change has already happened, and foreshadow the climax ahead. When those who are powerless and vulnerable have equal value to anyone else, it’s obvious that we are ruled by love and not the ability to dominate. And the announcement that Jesus is Lord (and the old powers are not) cuts right down to the root of all injustice, and begins to set this world right. We won’t stop until the message is known to all peoples.
care for the vulnerable
The hallmark of business-as-usual in the old order of things is that some have to get weaker for someone else to be strong, and that this is acceptable. The ones who get weaker are not seen as the problem of those who don’t – unless you can make a business out of charity.
Our practice is different: to extend respect, care, provision, protection, and shelter – kindness of every sort – to those who have been unable to find it for themselves. It is our priority to give first to those who are most vulnerable. These are the poor, and wherever we are their neighbors, as Jesus taught us, we will not shun them.
Though physical poverty – the absence of bare ability to provide for one’s own needs for survival – is most obviously grinding, we recognize that people are also made to be vulnerable in various other ways. Our practice is to embrace weakness (including our own) without shaming it, giving honor to those that lack it in the sight of society, and by doing so witness to the unconditional love of God.
sharing the struggle to gather strength
While mercy (or charity) gives out of strength to weakness, if prolonged it can contribute to the preservation of that weakness. Compassion goes further: it gives itself to struggle together into strength. It doesn’t keep separate from the object of its love. It joins together, and is willing to accompany others on their tough path. Compassion literally means “suffering together”. This compassion is both more painful and joyful than the mercy it often starts with, but Jesus life teaches us that it is a price worth paying.
We want God to transform our service to others so that we don’t merely help people outside of relationship, but share their struggle from within. We practice compassion by sharing many parts of our lives, not just money: time, emotional attachment, family life, and self-disclosure. As we journey with those whose struggle we share, we are transformed by Christ’s love, and are able to deeply receive from those we serve.
uncovering abusive power
People or institutions may become powerful for a variety of reasons, some good and some bad, but whenever their strength is used for exclusive privilege and status rather than for compassion, they cross the line – God’s line. Wealth, influence, skill, or leadership, were never given by God to hurt or to be hoarded. No resource should be gained at the expense of those who are vulnerable.
Our practice is not to be silent in the face of the great abuses of our time, nor in the smaller, hidden struggles where one person is crushed by the strength of another. We will not be afraid to speak up, though sensitivity to complex situations is always needed. We never begin by judgments; rather, starting by asking questions can help uncover hidden injustice while there is more chance of friendly reconciliation.
Where some have lost their ability to express their pain, we may be able to come along side and help recover the ability to speak. The power of speaking the truth in love is enough; we neither use nor react to coercion.