Thursday, March 19, 2009

Justice in the Burbs: Brace Yourself

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

What if Jesus asked you to share a meal with someone who was hungry?

What if Jesus asked you to provide clothes for someone in need?

What if Jesus asked you to provide care to someone who was sick?

What if Jesus asked you to provide refreshment to someone who was thirsty?

What if Jesus asked you to invite a stranger into your home?

What if Jesus asked you to visit a prisoner?

What if Jesus asked you to invite a prisoner into your home, share meals with him, and provide care and love on behalf of the Lord?

What if your neighbors revolted?

What if Jesus asked you to reconsider who is your neighbor?

While the fictional characters in Justice in the Burbs do not face opposition quite this strong, I couldn't resist pulling in a real-life example. Regardless of whether or not our pursuit of justice makes the national news, relationships will be affected.
(p.116-119) Kiss Normal Goodbye. This is the best advice we can give you. All of us exist in a series of relationships that are bound together by common interests and common life decisions… If you start asking questions about those common interests and desires, as well as the structures that flow from those commonalities, you can expect opposition, frustration, and counterquestions from those who are often the closest to you… Our relationships – including our families, our neighbors, friends from work, the places we worship, and the civic organizations in which we participate – are all the result of decisions we have made. Now, imagine you start to question some of those decisions. The simple fact is that being involved in a life of justice will have deep effects on every relationship you currently enjoy… Our lives are simply the web of relationships formed by a common view of the world. If you start challenging that view, be prepared – your life and many of your relationships will never be the same again.
However, it is important to keep in mind that, just because relational frustration is inevitable, does not mean hostility should be our pursuit.
(p.122) …we should be conscious of the fact that the people of God have always struggled with what it means to live faithfully as one body. When we sense a need to live differently because of the call of God on our lives, some proper humiliation is in order. Like the reformed smoker who wants to tell anyone and everyone who will listen about her newfound knowledge, you will be tempted to call everyone to join you. And we think you should – in love. Keep your relationships. Maintain your bonds. Live justly, but do so in a way that is winsome and calls others to join in. We are called to live differently while maintaining relationships. This is the paradox of becoming radical followers of Jesus in a life of justice.

Don't be surprised by opposition, but don't seek to be oppositional. Serve, and question, in love.

(If you're interested in following the hospitality story further, there was a good New York Times article, as well as a letter published by the pastor.)

Justice in the Burbs: Introduction
Justice in the Burbs: Breathing Room
Justice in the Burbs: Working Together
Justice in the Burbs: It's Personal
Justice in the Burbs: Busy, Busy, Busy!

1 comment:

Capt. Flipout said...

this is all very good... keep it coming.