Beyond The Walls By Brad Chilcott (via Mark Conner’s blog)

6a00e54ecc070b883301b7c78443ea970b-115wiBeyond the Walls by Brad Chilcott

Who would’ve thought that one photo could cause so much trouble?

It wasn’t the first time I’d been criticized for my friendship and solidarity with the Muslim community, in fact I’d had some threats of violence when I spoke up about Halal certification but this one took it another level. Had I renounced the gospel? Sure, being friends with Muslims, but praying in a mosque? Did I even believe in Jesus anymore? The beard didn’t help any.

Had I taken the instructions “love your neighbour as yourself” and “love your enemy” too literally? Too far?

1 John 3. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

We know what loves looks like by only one measure. Jesus Christ. We only know what loves looks like because we know Jesus and what it looked like for him.

And if I had a Bible for every time I’ve heard a Christian use their love for everyone as an excuse to be bigoted, hateful, insular, selfish, fear-mongering, greedy and self- interested I’d be the library at the Vatican.

You’ve heard it like I have. This flippant Christianese about loving people for whom we hold our deepest prejudices and ugliest hatreds.

Let me say this –

If it sounds like hate, feels like hate and makes people feel hated then it’s certainly not love

There’s not some special form of love that only Christians get to know about that looks and feels a lot more like hate for those that it is directed towards, but in some super spiritual secret way is still love.

If it looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and keeps us as far away from people as prejudice does, then it’s prejudice.

There’s not a special form of Christian love that looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and distances and dehumanises people like prejudice but in actual fact is some secret kind of love that only Christians know of.

There’s no special kind of love where you get to be horrible to people, or pretend they don’t exist, a kind of love where you stay in your insular and ignorant world, judge people you’ve never met, protect yourself from difference and religiously maintain your privileged way of life and self-righteously sheltered paradigm.

There’s a reason that doesn’t sound a lot like love.

Because it isn’t love. It’s prejudice wrapped up in faith.

It’s ignorance wrapped up in religion.

It’s bigotry masquerading as Christianity.

It’s selfishness appropriating the name of the selfless one to excuse greed and insularity.

It’s our rampant desire for a comfortable, self-interested life using the one who gave up the trappings of heaven to set us free as an excuse not to give a damn about anyone except ourselves, our situation and our perspective.

That’s not love it’s blasphemy.

But seeing as that little rant doesn’t relate to anyone here in this room I want to move on and talk about some things that are a bit more insidious, a bit less overt and obvious but are nevertheless important to reflect upon if we are to apply this wild measure of love to our work in the community and world.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us.” There’s a CS Lewis quote that I find helpful to explain it in practice

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ―C.S. Lewis

Another way of putting that could be “good intentions are not the same thing as love”.

Why? Because if we don’t do the hard work of turning good intentions into real outcomes for people then it’s likely that the “good” in “good intentions” is more about how good we feel about what we’re doing.

There’s a danger that we’re in fact congratulating ourselves for the intention to do good deeds, the videos we made to celebrate them and the likes on our Instagram account of ourselves with poor children rather than doing whatever it takes for the good of the people we say we love.

The phrase in CS Lewis’ quote “As far as it can be obtained” is key for us, I think. Love seeks the ultimate good of the loved person “as far as it can be obtained”.

Here are some very practical things that love does when love has the intention to work for the “ultimate good … as far as it can be obtained”.

1. Love intentionally escapes the echo chamber. In love we realise that it is easy to be surrounded by people, ideas, books and stories that affirm what we believe, the way we think, our theology, missiology and ecclesiology and we end up in a situation where we think anyone who isn’t doing it like us, or with us, must be naive, uneducated or willfully incompetent.

The echo chamber is when we find a bunch of like-minded churches, with similar culture to our own, and so do what they’re doing – it must be the right thing because they had a sick video and their people love it.

Love is not an excuse to be uneducated, or narrowly educated. Love is a steady wish for the loved one’s good as far as it can be obtained. As far as it can be obtained means being aware of the danger of the echo chamber where all our ideas, practices and projects are constantly being affirmed by those who we have become mirrors of.

2. Love is teachable and actively seeks out learning and critique. Love makes sure we’re at the cutting edge of community engagement, aid and development and have made every endeavor to learn from the best practitioners in the world about how to maximize our engagement with the people we say we love.

Love is not an excuse to do things badly. Love is not an excuse to be ten years behind. What I mean by this is that love won’t just send money, people and hours to any foreign aid and development project, or local community development work, driven by an emotional response we call love.

Love will, in seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, actively seek to understand what it world’s best practice today and invest in that best practice.

If you don’t know what results-based accountability, asset-based community development or collective impact mean, it’s time to learn.

When we’re still behaving like the white Saviours who can solve all the world’s problems for them the photos look great but It’s not love.

3. Love maximizes outcomes no matter what the cost – because it’s about the recipient and what they get out of our love acting towards them and not about us and our desire to feel like we’re good people.

In a small church community like mine, hundreds of people hours and thousands of dollars are invested in helping the people we love. In larger churches it’d be thousands of hours and tens or hundreds of thousands.

Across this room, across Australia, it’s incredible to think how much human and financial resource flows from our love for others.

Love, seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, pays the price of ensuring this investment does the most good it possibly can. That sometimes leads to conflict when we learn that our favorite projects aren’t aligned with good development principles, or that our community engagement isn’t helping but is feeding a dependency mindset.

Love sometimes means educating people that there are better organisations, projects, activities to invest their time and money into, and others that need to be abandoned, or radically re-imagined.

Love is not an excuse to avoid the conflict that comes from assessment, accountability and education. In fact, love makes those things essential because love doesn’t ask, “How does this activity benefit me and my church?” or “How does this keep people in my church happy and comfortable?” love says, “How can I best obtain the ultimate good for these people we say we love?”

This is how we know what love is – Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. What would you give up for love of people?

Changing the way it’s always been done? Escaping the echo chamber and being challenged by new ideas and paradigms? Being willing to take your people on a journey towards world’s best practice despite the uncomfortable changes on the way?

Maybe it’s risking your reputation, like Jesus being seen with sex workers, tax collectors and sinners as we do whatever it takes to make our community engagement about them and not about us and our church-culture measures of success.

This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Thanks.

Brad Chilcott

[Source: World Vision’s National Church Leader’s Summit – February 2015]

 

Dubious Questions Around Afghanistan

A letter from Simon Moyle via Jarod Mc Kenna

Defense Minister Stephen Smith recently took a trip to Afghanistan, with a range of reasons cited in the Defense Department media release. What wasn’t mentioned there – or anywhere else by the Gillard government – was the finalising of a draft Australian/Afghan Strategic Agreement for post 2014, due to be signed in just five weeks. That I discovered in a tweet from TOLOnews, an Afghan news organisation. It appears the Gillard government is keeping this agreement under wraps, hoping no one will notice.
The good news is that thanks to an email to some journos the story ran in the Age today. There are also a couple of us trying to get the attention of other media outlets. I’ve also talked to Adam Bandt’s PA so the Greens can ask some sticky questions.
If you can all post the Age article to social media, and tell everyone you know that this is happening, we have about a month to cause a ruckus that might bring some transparency, and then accountability.
I’m also thinking of putting together an email/social media appeal for people to contact their MPs, etc. so that there’s at least some wider knowledge and a modicum of accountability.
Just so people are aware of the significance of this:
1. In these kinds of agreements there’s always a “status of forces agreement”, which details how that particular military will be permitted to relate to the country post withdrawal. There is a good possibility that Australian SAS will continue to operate in Afghanistan post 2014. In particular it has already been said that while the mentoring task force (those training Afghan troops) are likely to drawdown and leave before the 2014 deadline, SAS will still be conducting capture and kill raids up to that deadline. Remember that just last November Gillard insisted that Australia will have a presence in Afghanistan “until the end of the decade at least”. It would be quite a turnaround in six months to bring that date forward so dramatically. So one question is: will SAS stay doing capture and kill raids for whatever criminal syndicate is in central government by 2014? (Karzai is already considering breaking his own election rules by seeking a third term, and to give himself the best chance is looking at bringing the election forward from the scheduled 2014 date to 2013)
2. The other big factor is aid, and in particular military aid. We already know that the force that we’re supposed to be training will likely cost around $6 billion a year, in a country which has a GDP of $1.6 billion, meaning the force we’re training will rely on massive ongoing military aid for the foreseeable future. Either that, or if the amount drops (and you can bet it will post withdrawal, particularly given financial crises and such) Afghanistan ends up with thousands of armed and trained men with no job. This is the disaster-in-waiting we’ve created.
3. The Australian agreement sits alongside (and no doubt works in with) the US/NATO Strategic Partnership Declaration, which some Afghans are describing as “slavery” and consigning them to “permanent terrorism”. It essentially allows for permanent US bases.
So, I think we have an opportunity, over the next five weeks, to let the government know that we know about this agreement, and call for accountability.
Please contact your MP and ask them what the Australian Afghan Strategic Agreement contains.

Peacemakers

Another great word from David Timms

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
~ Matthew 5:9

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Peacemakers

Violence confuses us. We fear it and we embrace it. It horrifies us and it entertains us.  On the one hand, the thought of a violent home invasion scares the daylights out of us. On the other hand, we spend lots of money on entertainment systems and video games that turn violence into fun. We hate the idea of a physical beating but we’ll watch as others kick, punch, and beat each other in a ring—strangely thinking that the ring somehow justifies or sanitizes the brutality.

The bloodlust of our culture has never been higher. Listen to the violent language. Watch the violent images. Experience the aggression on the roads and the fierceness in the stadiums.

And in such an environment, peacemakers—or even peacetalkers—are persona non grata. Nobody likes them. They’re soft. They’re weak. They’re out of touch. Theodore Roosevelt’s old foreign policy of “speak softly but carry a big stick” has become a common personal mantra. We’re willing to talk for a while (perhaps) but always ready to fight when provoked.

Everyone knows that peacemaking is for fools and idealists.

Everyone except Jesus.

When Jesus honors peacemakers (for they shall be called sons of God) He calls all of His followers to turn peacemaking into a life pursuit.

The challenge, of course, is simply this: Can we be peacemakers while we share the passion for violence that pervades our culture? This advent season calls us to grapple seriously with this question.

The Son of God came into a violent world, without violence. He confronted the established order not with swords and weapons but with words. He came not with bloodlust but a willingness for limited bloodshed—just His own.

Contrary to some distorted views, the “cleansing of the Temple” does not justify everything from berating abortionists to shooting Islamists.

The ancient prophet Isaiah described the promised Christ as “Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Perhaps as we celebrate His coming we’ll consider our Christmas gifts (and our values) with a fresh thoughtfulness … something befitting sons of God.

In HOPE –

David

You can find back issues of “In HOPE” (2005-2009) at http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/ .

David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. “In HOPE”, however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. “In HOPE” has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

The Soul

I think Matty B emailed this to me once. I now must be reading a book he was reading then and so I too have come across this great quote, and I publish it for you (probably again, I am sure I put it in here once before!)

Parker J Palmer says;

…the soul is [ ] shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush, especially when other people are around. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently at the base of a tree, breathe with the earth, and fade into our surroundings, the wild creature we seek might put in an appearance. We may see it only briefly and only out of the corner of an eye – but the sight is a gift we will always treasure as an end in itself.

A Hidden Wholeness (58/9)

Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

I have for some time been quietly stressed about what my life will look like next year. It’s that balance of having enough (whatever THAT looks like!) money coming in with as much time to do and be mission/relationship/family as possible as well I guess is the fact that I one day want my vocation, life family job, community to kind of all bleed into one as much as that could be done. I don’t wont to be pulled in a million different directions yet at the same time I want a good diversity as I get restless with only one focus. I want to do things that honour my passions and sense of calling, yet I don’t feel I HAVE to always be paid to fulfill all these passions and ‘callings’. I then have the ugly issue of being a bit of a people pleaser, so when someone says, ‘let’s do this’ – I am thinking, ‘sure, if that would make you happy, or like me more or...’, or someone comes to me and suggests, ‘you would be great at this job‘, it pats my ego and I think, ‘yes I would be wouldn’t I!‘.

So when I read a devotional thought today by Charles Ringma on the theme of peace, I thought it was very comforting as was the scriptural theme (above). So I thought I would type the lot out!

Finding Peace Within
Learning to Be At Home With Ourselves.

We need to come to an inner peace if our life is to be perennially productive. Such inner peace is a fruit of the way we consistently live. It is not the product of an escape from our circumstances – although we frequently think that a change in our circumstances will provide us with the answers we seek and the peace we long for.
Peace comes from being at home with ourselves. It comes from being thankful for the way God has made us and gifted us. It comes from the joy of giving and an appreciation for all that we receive. It comes from accepting ourselves and celebrating all that is good, while working on what needs to change.
Peace comes from being loved and having the satisfaction of achievement and the challenge of new goals. Peace wells up from within, but is clearly related to the way we live and the choices we make.
But it is seldom the result of much-having. It does not necessarily come with great success. Instead it is the unexpected gift. It is the surprise. It is there even when we didn’t expect it. It remains even when the going is tough. And it can grow even in the midst of pain and difficulty.
If peace finds its expression in being at home with ourselves, we clearly need to stop looking elsewhere. Henri Nouwen laments the fact that “we do not trust our inner most self as an intimate place.” He notes that we “anxiously wander around hoping to find [peace] where we are not.” Because peace is not simply the fruit of our circumstances, it can only come from within. And it can only abide there if we are at peace with ourselves.

Charles Ringma
“Dare To Journey with Henri Nouwen”

Hope you appreciated these thoughts as I did.
Shalom

Scott