Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Ultimate Question

Planet earth has around 6.5 billion people. Of that, 5 billion live in poverty while the wealthiest 20% consume more than 80% of the world’s resources (reported by United Nations & World Bank). The United Nations has officially stated that “runaway growth in consumption among the wealthy in the past 50 years is putting new strains on the environment never before seen.” War, terrorism (including America’s own brand), and genocide covers more of the globe than ever in human history. Death is taking over; and not just physically. Dehumanizing experiences like depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, rape, pornography, and the more subtle soul-killers are stripping life from the hearts of people throughout the world. What's driving this widespread and ever-increasing force of entropy?

The Bible says that, in the beginning, God, as a living and communal being, created all things within a life-giving web of interconnected relationships that drew their substance from Him as the Source and Sustainer. That interconnected web was broken when the first humans chose to abandon God in pursuit of a more thorough independence. That fateful decision disconnected them and all who would follow from the Source and Sustainer of life, casting us, and the world we were charged to steward, into a chaotic reality of death. In contrast to God's plan for life-giving community, that selfish act of independence brought about disconnection wherein we became estranged from God, self, others, even the created order. Every problem in our experience is a manifestation of death stemming from this ongoing state of disconnection.

This realization goes a long way in helping us understand Christ's work of redemption. God's aim in the redemptive process is to reconcile and reconnect all things through Christ's work of atonement and the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration. But experiencing that reconnection is a progressive task, beginning with the spiritual rebirth Christians frequently call "salvation" and perfected through ongoing submission and participation with God's new-life reality... the reality Jesus calls "the kingdom of God". Consequently, the fullness of human life is only possible through a radical transformation of both personal identity and lifestyle. A reconnected identity and a reconnected lifestyle.

That's why Paul says Christ gave us His "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18). Jesus calls us into a lifestyle of partnership with Him as He reconnects all that is disconnected. He calls us to a lifestyle that’s both reconnected and reconnecting, one full of hope and grace-filled promise. Our world is dying for such a hope! Even vast portions of the self-proclaimed Christian community are desperate for an antidote to their self-centered, soul-killing lifestyles of independence, safety and control.

As things are now in what most people see as Christianity, the religious remain disconnected from irreligious and the “righteous” remain disconnected from “sinners”. Protestants remain disconnected from Catholics (and from other Protestants). Conservatives from liberals. The wealthy from the poor. The educated from the uneducated. The powerful from the oppressed. The white from the black and brown. Oversized church buildings, denominational boundaries, expensive schools, suburban living... these are the faces of disconnection. And where is Jesus in all this? He’s with irreligious, the sinners, the poor, the uneducated, and the oppressed. And if Christians are not with them then they are not with Jesus. The world and the body of Christ continue to suffer the destructive consequences of their disconnection from not only other people, but also from God Himself.

So here’s my question: Given that self-centered disconnection is the primary killer of life - which is based on life-giving, interconnected community - what can we do to overturn this current of disconnection and begin moving toward personal and communal reconnection? This is the question I ask along with those increasing numbers who long to regain life by reconnecting dependently with God, interdependently within His kingdom community, graciously to the unreconciled, and hopefully to the whole created order - with special emphasis on the poor and oppressed as provided by Jesus’ example. With this, we also ask, given Christ’s call for a communal identity and response, how do we accomplish such a task together, in a communal way?

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