Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bringing justice the kingdom way

It's easy to talk about love and justice and peace in the abstract.  Everyone would probably agree that those are good things.  But how do we find them?  Do we find them by being loving and peaceful and trusting God to bring about justice?  Or do we chase after those ideas without giving thought to how our actions and attitudes affect other people?

The legal world is a veritable minefield of opportunities to act opposite to the principles of the Kingdom of God.  It's set up as an adversarial system--for whatever reason, someone decided a long time ago that the way we make justice happen is by having everyone fight tooth and nail for every inch of the dispute.  If you're getting a divorce, then of course the most fair outcome is going to happen when you fight your ex-spouse for every moment of parenting time and every dollar in alimony.  If you're a civil attorney, then you're definitely going to want to break the rules to give yourself an advantage but complain every time the opposing party does something wrong.

So every day, I have an opportunity (or maybe a challenge) about how I'm going to live.  Am I going to bring all of my choices to God in prayer and ask that God would give me wisdom and discernment in how to approach things?  Am I going to spend time seeking the best for everyone involved (including the victims of a crime as well as my client) rather than thinking of every way that I can make it hard for the other party?  Am I going to treat opposing counsel with grace and compassion in a system that is built to take advantage of those things?  Do I really believe that God is a God of justice and that the way he's chosen to bring that about is through love and compassion and sacrifice and humility and kindness?

In my heart, I do think that God's way is the best way.  I really do think that it's better for everyone if I treat the opposing party and their counsel with respect and kindness even if they've been terrible to me.  I do think that, in the end, my client wins when I play by God's value system.  I actually believe that fighting for my client includes seeing the bigger picture of how litigation affects the person's whole life.  But it's a constant struggle in this adversarial system to be a Christian.  It's a constant struggle to fight the urge to fight back just because I'm frustrated or annoyed rather than fighting for justice and for peace in the way and time that it's actually necessary and appropriate. 

So that's what bringing the Kingdom of God into my world looks like.  What about you?  What are the areas of your work or home life than conflict with God's values and purposes?  How are you challenged to choose his way?  What friends are helping you to figure out what it looks like in your life?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

an expression and extension of the Kingdom

"Jesus’ call to conversion involved turning around, accepting the reality of God’s rule, and then willingly becoming an expression and an extension of that rule in participation with a local congregation of his people.” Arthur F. Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2003), 355.

What does it mean to be an expression and extension of God's rule?

Jesus constantly invited people into the kingdom of God.  As I mentioned here, being a part of the kingdom invites the kingdom rule and reign of God into your life and into the world.  But once you've done that, I think that we must go on to be a part of bringing God's kingdom to the world.

So we begin by asking, what does God want to restore and renew in the world around me?  And what can I do, given my life experience, the gifts God has given me, and the passions that I have?

God has so many passions--so many things that he cares about.  He cares about justice for the oppressed, stewardship of the earth's resources, concern for the poor and widows and orphans.  He cares about transforming individuals and communities into people and places that reflect his character.  He cares about the prisoners and setting people free from bondage to sin and to oppression.

What passions do you share with him?  If you don't share any, then begin to pray that God will give you his eyes and his heart to see the world.  But if there's something that jumps out at you, then what are some practical things you can do to join God's work in these areas?  What's one step you can take this week to be an expression and extension of God's rule?  How is your church already participating in these things, and how can you join them?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

trial and prayer

Well, I'm all immersed in preparing for a trial.  They come along so infrequently that they tend up to take up my whole life for a couple of weeks.  So all I've got floating around in my head right now are social-justice type issues...

Like the mentally ill guy who got sentenced to 40 years to life for murdering someone.  How can we treat someone who cannot choose between right and wrong or cannot control his actions the same way we treat criminals?  What will his life be like in prison, where he'll be with people who will not respect his human dignity and who will likely prey on his vulnerabilities?  Heartbreaking.

Or how in the world can I participate in a system that dehumanizes people the minute they're accused of a crime?  How can I watch another person being treated without dignity in a way that doesn't even begin to bring healing and restoration into the midst of everyone's pain?

Some days, it's really hard to figure out what being a believer, a person of faith, a person whose primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, looks like in this place.  What is my responsibility to the mentally ill criminals in my community?  Is what I'm doing as an attorney contributing to injustice or fighting it?  What would God have me do, right now, today?

Just taking it one day at a time and praying that God's Kingdom would come and his will would be done here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

a bigger picture

So I think I mentioned that I've started taking some classes, kind of just for fun.  We've been talking and reading some about evangelism, and I'm starting to be able to articulate where my thoughts and experiences are fitting into the whole.

When I was growing up (and in the books I'm reading for class now), evangelism is mostly talked about like it's a one-time conversation you have with someone, usually a stranger you go up to on the street.  Depending on your denomination and approach to faith, you might bring along a tract or just your Bible.  And that's when you have a conversation about salvation.  Maybe you start with a question like, "If you died tonight, and God asked why should I let you into my heaven, what would you say?"  But usually you start the conversation somewhere around creation and try to fit in the whole story of redemption in about 2-3 minutes.

My sense is that evangelism is much deeper and much wider than that.  Because I think I see evangelism more like how you teach your kids about God--one day and one small moment at a time.  It doesn't happen overnight, and living a life of faith is something that you only learn by living it out in concrete ways.  You're confronted with an angry co-worker, and you have to decide in that moment how to respond.  What does God want you to do?  What does your heart tell you to do?  How can you invite God into that moment to change you and make you more like Jesus?  It's a million little decisions, day after day, to follow Christ.

I'm not saying that most people don't have a point of decision where they choose for the first time to follow Jesus, but I am saying that we usually don't expect to teach our kids about it all in one sitting.  It's a long, slow process of introducing concepts, ideas, and relationship with God over time.  It's just so much bigger than one conversation.

And I think this is an important distinction, because when we're thinking about evangelism, training for evangelism, or trying to imagine ourselves doing it, we think of it like a confrontation rather than a long relationship of mutual sharing.  And because we don't think of it as a long relationship, we don't really take advantage of all the different opportunities that pop up--just to love someone or to listen to them or to share a story of how God's impacted our own lives because it's relevant in that moment. 

In most of my relationships where I've seen someone come to faith, it hasn't been because I walked up to someone on the street and started talking about sin, judgment, and salvation.  It's been a 2 or 3 year process of listening, learning, and sharing.  Yes, I've had great opportunities to share the whole story of the gospel, but they've been buried in between mundane discussions about life and sprinkled out over a long period of time.

How do you define evangelism?  Is it a one-time conversation or a lifetime of sharing?  Who are you sharing your life with right now?