Tag Archives: reconciliation

Our Stories Are Not Finished Yet

The Lenten Season is a period of self-reflection and sacrifice as followers of Christ ponder the obedience of Jesus that led to a Cross and Resurrection, bringing hope and reconciling grace to our weary world. The story of Jesus includes his humble beginnings. It features family life in an artisan’s home. There is a Bar Mitzvah that astounded some learned religious leaders. And then there were quiet years running a business until his early 30s. If the narrative stopped here, it would have been one more story of an anonymous Jewish family in the early first century.

But the full story continues as Jesus begins his public ministry. For more than three years this Rabbi delivers and heals, forgives and reconciles, teaches and demonstrates the love, grace, and truth of God’s kingdom. For his trouble, Jesus is betrayed, arrested, subject to multiple (mis)trials, scourged, crucified, and buried in a borrowed tomb with a 24-hour Roman guard. If the story had ended here, Jesus would have been one more zealous Rabbi and wonder-worker and perhaps classified as a good teacher by some and a pernicious influence by others. (Oh wait…isn’t that how many still see him?)

But the story is only complete on Easter morning as the Lord is raised from the dead in a transformed body still bearing the scars of his atoning death while revealing the ultimate future of all who believe. Easter is not only a promise of eternity, it is a present reality as followers of Jesus receive the Holy Spirit and walk in his pathway of love and humility, offering the same deliverance and healing, forgiveness and reconciliation to all.

And Easter means that all of OUR stories are still being written. Starting right now, our future can be different as we listen more deeply to our Lord, align our hearts and minds with his commands, and join Jesus in his mission. Yes, we may bear the consequences and scars of previous traumas or our own sins. No, we cannot be “anything” we imagine – that is nonsense. But starting today, we can become the best version of the person God created us to be and start doing the good works he designed in advance for us to do. We were created to enjoy God’s presence and fulfill his purpose. As we worship and work, and allow the Lord to refine our character and define our charisms, a better future opens to us – and to the world.

Our stories are not finished until our mortal journeys have ended. And even then, they continue in a new creation. Be encouraged today! Jettison the fatalism and the fantasies, and embrace the Cross. In humility and service, we discover our purpose and find great strength.

A Time for Repentance and Reflection

In the wake of the events following the murder of George Floyd, Made to Flourish issues the following statement. I think it is a clear, fair, and wise expression and I hope you will pass it on.

We join a chorus of voices in the unequivocal condemnation of the brutal killing of George Floyd, which followed the recent tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Of course, these are only the most recent examples among the long scourge of institutional and systemic racism and brutality against black and brown brothers and sisters who bear God’s image. We lament in the fullest biblical sense the injustice that has been perpetrated towards people of color which events like the killing of George Floyd continue to expose.

Above all, our righteous God is angered by injustice. And because the church is the visible representation of his voice and work in our world—the body of Christ—the church has a responsibility to offer prophetic critique and model a new way forward. Many churches have understood this calling, especially among our African American brothers and sisters. For many others, there is much work that needs to be done, undergirded by humble listening and sincere repentance. Corporately, we confess not only our sins of commission, in ways that the church has been complicit in racism, but also our sins of omission, as we have not loved justice and sought change that is consistent with God’s character and will.

As an organization, we exist to empower pastors and their churches to integrate faith, work, and economic wisdom, for the flourishing of their communities. Safe to say, our communities are not flourishing, and they haven’t been even long before the unrest of these past few weeks. Why? In part, we believe that the church has not been all that it is called to be in society. We say this not merely as a critique, but in humility, realizing that we have not embraced the totality of God’s mission in our world, the reconciliation of all things to himself, which entails reconciliation to one another.

While there are many ways to frame our current moment, one could say that our current crisis is a crisis of work, vocation, and economics. How will the people of God respond and live in their work environments? Will city government workers seek to build bridges in their communities? Will police chiefs and departments continue to inspect every system and incentive that leads to injustice? Will workers in unions not only protect their own but also embrace accountability? Will pastors and churches seek unity and partnerships, first among themselves, and also among the many non-profit, governmental, and for-profit companies engaging in redemptive work in our cities? Will each individual recognize and act on their responsibility to seek the common good of all in their community?

And of course, economics. Much has been written on the racial wealth disparities in our country, and how they undergird many of the challenges we face in our communities. The causes are myriad, some as old as the founding of our country. But how might the church embrace and call for expanding economic opportunity, rooting out bias in hiring and promoting, support for those looking for jobs, expanding access to social and financial capital, and calling for equal pay for equal work? In the model of sphere sovereignty, the institutional church is not always or even usually the final actor. But the scattered church, followers of Jesus deployed in every sphere of society, bring the aroma of Christ wherever they work.

We long for churches, alongside so many other important initiatives, to embrace the integration of faith, with work, and economic wisdom, for the flourishing of their communities. And we need to hear your stories of creative response and engagement. God’s Spirit is not done with his church. Through repentance and in humility, the church plays a central role in God’s redemptive plan, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

We end by praying for justice in our communities, that God’s justice would be made known in our cities where there has been rampant injustice. We pray for peace, not merely the absence of conflict, but the holistic flourishing of our communities under the reign of God. We pray for conviction in the face of our apathy and the seeming entropy of our concern. And we pray for hope, among what seems like a hopeless situation. Our God is more than able.

“And now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

The Hinge of Humility: Opening Doors to Wisdom

In our contentious world, persons and parties are competing for attention, which often leads to dueling over which individual or group can be the most outrageous in their assertions. Accusations are followed by belated retractions and oral and written communication is littered with terms like, “alleged” and “some people are saying” and “unnamed sources assert.” One post is picked up by many and soon millions are arguing over dubious data.

What is sorely lacking in most public discourse is the virtue of humility. Humility is not the absence of confidence or fear of others. Humility is a disposition of openness and a willingness to be corrected and refined in our thinking. Humility also looks for the good in others and waters the soil of principled peacemaking and proximate justice.

There are five dimensions of humility that will transform our personal lives and improve our public conversations. The first is humility before the Almighty. Even deeply religious people are prone to pride in their moral virtue or personal accomplishments, acting as if they are doing a favor for God, rather than realizing God’s unmerited favor in underneath any good brought to the world.

The second dimension is humility about ourselves. We are all beautiful and broken, bearing the divine image and ravaged by a fallen world, which includes both our own choices and unwanted traumas. Humility allows us to receive God’s embrace and accelerate our healing and maturity from the inside out. And this growth usually involves the care and love of others.

Third, we need humility for healthy relationships. We need to call for help when things are toxic. And we also need patience as others are learning life lessons. Married couples should aim for the good of their partners. Colleagues and friends can celebrate the success of others without envy. And humility is the foundation of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The fourth dimension is humility about our personal calling or purpose. We can walk with confidence and be well-focused without arrogance or pride. Our destiny in woven together with the good of others – we never succeed alone. Discovering and developing our gifts and skills serve God and others.

Finally, humility informs our daily life of work and engagement on the economy. Every day is an occasion to see our work – paid or unpaid, labor or leadership – as service to God and others. Humility will open doors for advancement as others see our disposition and discipline in deed and word.

Humility is cultivated over time and it leads to inner tranquility and healthier relationships. Above all, the Scriptures remind us that God honors the humble with his grace and presence (Isaiah 55, James 4 and I Peter 5).  That is enough.

Rightly Ordered Loves, Part 2: Justice is Social and Racial Peace is Possible

“Social justice” is a loaded term. For liberals and progressives, it is a summative refrain containing their concerns for economic, gender, and racial equity, including much more governmental intervention righting historic wrongs. For conservatives, it has become a byword, representing ideologies and policies antithetical to human freedom and flourishing.

Justice is social! At its root, justice is well-ordered relationships – in business, personal interactions, political policy, and international relations. Justice implies fairness, but it is more than a legal referee. Justice includes access, equity, and opportunity in a civil society containing freedom of conscience and equal rights.

It is time to change our language and simply use the term, “Justice.” As we do, we will find that justice is inseparable from well-ordered loves. The desire for fairness is innate: no one has to teach a child to say, “no fair!” When we see oppression and violence, indignation rises within and we want to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. When we see discrimination, we heartily oppose such practices and want everyone to have opportunity to thrive.

Agape love and true justice are inseparable. Both involve deep reflection on the values and virtues underneath true freedom. Justice without love devolves to legalities without nuance and consideration of the whole person or situation. A sense of affection or compassion without justice becomes diluted mercy that endangers civil order and denigrates personal responsibility.

When we choose agape love and aim for holistic justice, reparations for slavery and Jim Crow move from the temporary redistribution of wealth to transformation of relationships and systems that ensure a better future for all while confronting the past. Banking, food, and job deserts are unacceptable. It is unconscionable that given equal brilliance and empirical data, that a small fraction of venture capital finds its way to African American entrepreneurs.

Justice and love will lead toward racial reconciliation that does not replace one form of hatred with another. Justice and agape love open the doors to fearless self-examination and evaluation of all economic and social systems. Individual iniquity is revealed, and repentance is possible. Institutional injustice is unveiled and repealed. There is hope when we choose a difference vision.

Positive Politics, Part 1

Dear Democrats,
We need you as an inclusive, principled party, ready to debate and pass laws that benefit all Americans. Alas, your radical wing is obsessed with Trump and mandates that can never be funded.

You desperately need to recover the best of FDR-Truman-Kennedy-Humphrey if you are going to welcome many back in the fold.

Here are some tips:
Stop hating moderate to conservative Jews and Christians for their views on marriage and morality. If you welcome even more conservative Muslims, why exclude other principled religious adherents?

Demonstrate fiscal responsibility and bring a budget that leads toward less debt.
Agitation, protest and resistance are easy compared with governing. Clean out the corruption at the city and state level. Stop the class envy and offer economic policies that foster private-public partnerships. Be leaders of racial reconciliation, not the catalysts of more animosity.

Simplify the tax code, with special concern for those who are struggling. Hyper-progressive tax laws hurt the economy. Welcome pro-life social moderates back. End the campaign finance hypocrisy. You love “dark” money just as much as your opponents.

Welcome immigrants and create pathways to citizenship with reasonable security and the end of registering non-citizens.

Friends, we need civil debate and proximate justice.