How compassion inhibits change

Latest contribution from Gaz

I’m going to draw an illustration from my anti human trafficking
Narrative, as it serves to map out the issue in an actual context.

The rescue of victims, survivor care homes and restoration are the ambulance at the bottom of the human trafficking cliff, it is important and wonderful work. However, if nobody builds a fence at the top of the trafficking cliff through prevention, education, legislation and law enforcement… you will never have enough ambulances.

Something that re enforces this, is that the vast majority of donor funding comes to care, not prevention, to the ambulance and not the fence and that’s a problem when trafficking’s main PR label is Abolition… ending something.

People in general, but Christians specifically, have a tendency to be motivated by acts of compassion and mercy, and so they should. Most of our engagement in the suffering of others is an emotive response to what we hear and see.

The problem with this is Christianity as a whole is likely putting considerably more human and financial investment into mopping up the outcomes of suffering that the causes of it. In short, our response is likely to be compassion driven but unlikely to be strategy driven

It is an issue which has also come up in recent years around the flourishing of food banks in response to poverty and hunger both for the least amongst us and apparently nurses and other professionals who are struggle to make ends meet.

The problem with Christian communities defaulting to compassion is that they are far more likely to set up a food bank than come to an understanding of the root issues of this poverty in the community. It is far more likely to buy extra tins of baked beans than write to the local MP, petition Government or join it.

Its easy to point things that are not working and respond instead with meeting immediate needs, but how do we address those things which are broken in society and see what is referred to as ‘systemic change’ happen.

Protest is one response, but protest with out alternative solutions does not get us far beyond a sore throat, that is why we also need alternative models, alternative economies and stories of how something can be done differently.

I used to sit around a table with more than 40 organisations, tackling human trafficking as part of the Human Trafficking Foundation, led by an all party group of Govt ministers in London. Having produced a comprehensive report on modern day slavery in Britain it seemed they had a platform to address key aspects of legislation and care in the country.
In doing further homework, we were broken into interest groups to explore in detail, what change might look like in our key area of need. I remember participant putting forward suggestion as to what specialist care might look like for sexually exploited children, whilst another participant said ‘but we should not put a good thing into a broken system’.

This was a dilemma.

It is my personal conviction that it is ‘both / and’. We can try to fix the system, but we also need models of hope, which show those responsible for the systems that there is another way. For me a model is a story of hope, not how something should be done but instead that it ‘can’ be done.

So, the next thing that catches our attention and strums our heart strings, perhaps we can hold off for a few moments. To ask ourselves in our responding with compassion, how can we also respond with innovation and strategy that will contribute to systemic change. Can we dig deep and go wide in building the fence at the top of the human trafficking cliff, addressing poverty or that our local authority has a failing foster care system which mean more kids in institutions and not families.

I will end with a story of a group of innovators in Los Angeles.
One aspect of the work cost 25 cents… they collected quarters from people so that they could open up a launderette, out of hours specifically for local homeless people. It worked. They then decided to provide mobile showers and dressing gowns so people could put clean bodies back inside clean clothes. Then local healthcare workers who were struggling to do consistent care with the homeless because of movement, recognised this was a place that they would always be, and showed up with a mobile clinic.

They are clean, healthy… but still homeless.

In the same city, a group raised money for some homeless people to be housed and not build another shelter, believing as they did that homeless people first need a home. There is not enough money to rent or buy something that substantial in the centre of LA, land is just too expensive and too in demand. Did they stop? No. They approached a group who had an open car parking lot and said, ‘ can we pay you for any inconvenience caused by building a block of apartments on this site on pillars, so you lose minimal space? We will pay you a monthly premium once it is built as additional income.

I wonder if we can create some stories, not of mopping up, but of making change up stream. Our response may always be compassion and mercy first, but perhaps it is not the last thing we will respond with, perhaps its entry level, perhaps we have been hanging around the lower rungs of the ladder?
Maybe we are too content at just ‘having skin in the game’.
Maybe its simply where we are at as church with our own need for systemic change, as we wrestle with that which holds us and seek to become those agents of change in society.

God in it

The Core of a Movement

In a post today Scot McKnight wrote (emphasis added):

While the liberation theology of some was not much more Marxist economics and violent revolution, but a theology should not be judged by its edges but by its center.

The latter part is what caught my attention – applicable to theology but I wish to apply it to protest movements. First a brief story.

Somewhere around the year 2000 I had a clear encounter with Spain. I was above the land and could see the entire outline of the Iberian peninsula, when what I saw began to zoom in fairly rapidly (before I was using google maps, but the same effect, zooming in and coming to the centre). So I knew that somehow I was coming to the ‘centre’ of Spain. When I got there I came to a large square that contained two aspects that got my attention. First a huge crowd that I estimated had to be around 100,000 people, and a stage at one end all set up but without anyone on it as the event had not yet started. I knew the people had gathered to ‘hear what the Lord would have to say to Spain’.

As I have written before revelation meets expectation, and my expectation was clear that one day a remarkable event would take place where a prophet would come to Spain and address the nation in a public setting of considerable size. Expectation comes from the past, revelation from the future – hence the mismatch.

Many years later I discovered that Puerta del Sol is at the centre of Madrid, and from there (point ‘Zero Kilometre’) measurements are made. It is a wonderfully active square with many protests taking place in it or ending there.

In January 2015 Gayle and I decided to travel to Madrid as a political leader was calling for a gathering from across Spain. We thought we needed to be there to catch something of the pulse of the land, so travelled up on Friday night to stay over till Sunday morning. Early Saturday Gayle received a phone call to say her dad was seriously ill and the suggestion was that she should fly to the UK as soon as possible. We booked the first available flight – the afternoon. (We were due to be there for 2 nights, Gayle had packed for herself clothes for a week as she anticipated something would disturb our plans.)

This then changed everything but as we had a couple of hours before the event we decided that we should go to the square, see what was there. By the time we left the square to go to the airport the square was packed – certainly with a crowd of around 100,000. At the far end – just as I had seen – was a stage that was empty as the event was still more than an hour away from starting.

We left. Gayle to the airport and I drove back to Oliva. Event over, though we watched it on TV but were never present at it.

Two months later I walked into our living room and suddenly there was an ‘aha’ moment. ‘Gayle we were standing in exactly what I saw 15 years ago.’

When we stood in it that Saturday morning I could not see it. It did not meet my expectation. My expectation was wrong! Every last detail fitted what I had seen, and still I could not ‘see’ it. The speaker – a professed atheist – spoke about the clock in Spain that had been stopped had started. He called out much of the corruption that day, and since that day slowly but consistently the corruption has been squeezed to the surface.

[Even after recognising the fulfilment I had to wrestle with for a while the thought that ‘maybe though there will be a future event that will really be the ‘full’ fulfilment – a Christian event.’ Expectations – so slow to give way! I now know that was the fulfilment.]

So back to McKnight’s quote. We can write off (and particularly so at this time) protest movements because they are nor perfect. In doing so we can hold them to a higher account than we do the church. If Jesus had one standard for society (no murder) but had another for his disciples (no anger) why are we critical of that which does not profess faith, and are silent about internal issues? We reverse the Jesus’ approach seeking to hold the world to a level of account that is not appropriate.

We should expect imperfection in protest movements. We should not allow the periphery to obscure the centre. We have prayed for a long time for wisdom’s voice to be heard, to be heard in the public square, to be shouted out in the street. And for those of us who have not prayed we have sung about ‘dancers who dance upon injustice’.

I have to come to believe:

  • that many of our prayers will be – and should be – answered by events in the world. (One of the central commissions for the body of Christ is to enable the world to be a ‘good’ world.)
  • That the responses will not be perfect, and that we are wrong to expect them to be.
  • That God’s voice is heard in and through these movements, and that a deafness at this time will only serve to skew the prophetic that is being proclaimed.

John Wayne to the rescue

This one is a little hard to post as I do not wish it to be read as a critique on Christianity in the USA. If there is a critique it is on the Christianity that was exported, and continues to be exported, and if one looks closely at the label it will read ‘Made in Europe’.

I post it at this time also as I am convinced that there is a ‘feminine’ world that is arising, into which those who are of a new creation are invited into – males and females alike. Probably easier for those who are female to enter it, but it can only be entered regardless of gender through the doorway of repentance (mind shift).

I picked this review of from Scot McKnight’s site today:

https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/july/what-to-call-20.html

Here then are a selection of quotes from the book:

For decades, the Religious Right had been kindling fear in the hearts of American Christians. It was a tried-and-true recipe for their own success. Communism, secular humanism, feminism, multilateralism, Islamic terrorism, and the erosion of religious freedom- evangelical leaders had rallied support by mobilizing followers to fight battles on which, the fate of the nation, and their own families, seemed to hinge. Leaders of the Religious Right had been amping up their rhetoric over the course of the Obama administration. The first African American president, the sea change in LGBTQ rights, the apparent erosion of religious freedom – coupled with looming demographic changes and the declining religious loyalty of their own children – heightened the sense of dread among white evangelicals.

Evangelicals were looking for a protector, an aggressive, heroic, manly man, someone who wasn’t restrained by political correctness or feminine virtues, someone who would break the rules for the right cause.
Evangelicals hadn’t betrayed their values. Donald Trump was the culmination of their half century-long pursuit of a militant Christian masculinity. He was the reincarnation of John Wayne, sitting tall in the saddle, a man who wasn’t afraid to resort to violence to bring order, who protected those deemed worthy of protection, who wouldn’t let political correctness get in the way of saying what had to be said or the norms of democratic society keep him from doing what needed to be done. Unencumbered by traditional Christian virtue, he was a warrior in the tradition (if not the actual physical form) of Mel Gibson’s William Wallace.

This Jesus was over half a century in the making. Inspired by images of heroic white manhood, evangelicals had fashioned a savior who would lead them into the battles of their own choosing. The new, rugged Christ transformed Christian manhood, and Christianity itself.

A Jesus in our making is always the danger. A masculine Jesus that enforces that “it’s a man’s world”. And the new creation is where there is ‘no male and female’. That is a radical world. Perhaps humanity is to carry the ability to understand that our universe is relational (Quantum Physics, not Newtonian) and that relationships are founded on, nurtured by, and develop through love… even love of the ‘enemy’.

Theology. Then there is ‘black theology’, ‘feminine theology’, ‘liberation theology’, ‘queer theology’ and a whole gamut besides. But the one simply labelled ‘theology’? Does not need an adjective as it true theology, so no need to add ‘white, middle class, male’. Adjectives!!

If the ‘Jesus in our image’ Gospel was essentially fabricated in Europe could it be possible that something is being undone here too?

A reset but not enough?

A Jubilee

So many changes – temporary or permanent? It seems to me that the Jewish law of Sabbath(s) culminating in the Jubilee reset of all resets acknowledged that changes were temporary. Otherwise why the repetition? Change instructed by God to the government of the land because a wonderful entrepreneurial gift was often harnessed to serve self-seeking interest and so everything could quickly get out of control. The instruction to bring about a re-set. A re-set of focus every 7 days; a reset of trust in God and a confrontation of ‘drivenness’ every 7 years, and a national radical economic reset in that 50th year.

Israel, instructed by God, as theocracy which no government today is – thankfully!! To be outworked by the government of the land with Israel’s laws continuing as paradigmatic patterns for justice – but thankfully not stronger than that. A Jubilee year twice a century seemed to be enough in that culture to bring things back to a true normality, not to some untrue new normality.

A Jubilee twice a century just would not cut it for the West. A certain gentleman’s personal wealth increased recently in a day by 10bn – can’t remember whether that was $ or £ or €’s. Now that really would make a difference dependent on what currency it was in!! (What does one do with 10bn?) Economic growth in an agrarian culture of a few millennia ago cannot be compared to economic growth of today.

A ‘re-set’ for the ekklesia, a ‘re-boot’ for the oikomene (inhabited world, a very common description used in the political cartoon world of Revelation, from the root word for ‘house’ and one from which we get our word ‘economy’).

A little more negativity: with the increase of the virus so is the use of plastics increasing; plastic gloves available in supermarkets, hand-wash in yet more plastic containers, take out food in… Today I also read (an aside) that every person is using a gadget with a battery that has been produced with children (in slavery) to mine material for it. A ‘re-boot’ – really?

And for us as believers we really have got to kick out of touch the idea that this whole planet is here for us to exploit, with the ‘after all what the heck it is all going to burn up in the end’ attitude. If I had time I would go on a rant about the total un-Hebraic nature of that concept – along with a rant on the ‘rapture’, secret or otherwise. Sadly I realise that the Lord has never been interested in convincing people to believe what I believe… now just imagine a world where we all believed what Martin believed…. or maybe not!

I have very reluctantly (there is normally a screech each day of my ‘frustration tyres’ as I brake and have to change direction) come to understand that God is more interested in what rises than in what is here that resists change. (Saul’s kingdom is over, the key to the future timing-wise is in the hands of David in spite of the continuing decades of Saul as king.)

Change takes place not when Mr B turns over his wealth to help re-balance the globe, but when the widow puts her ‘mite’ into the Temple treasury, or when Judas throws back the money into the Temple. Not one stone can then remain for long one on another. The place that was to be a ‘house of prayer for the nations’ always seems to be the real key. (Private thought to myself at this point – do I think that the ‘temple not built by hands’ will ever get beyond being sold out to self-interested-nationalism?)

Maybe it is a combination of little changes that could just prove to be the leverage mechanism to move more than we ever anticipated. Maybe to simply not eat of the ‘consumerist’ tree but to eat fruit from the others might be enough.

OK… my brake is on, the tyres screeched quite a lot today. But I am saying Mr B you make your choices, I have to make mine too.

National Health Service

We cannot follow all the UK news but last night Andy Knox (a GP and consultant within the NHS alerted us to an almost non-reported bill that the UK government has just turned down the protection regarding selling off the NHS. (Here is one reference I could find:
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/mps-nhs-vote-trade-deals-brexit-a4504631.html.)

This is something that maybe could have been predicted but is somewhat ominous. Interestingly in the past three or so weeks I had been somewhat focused on the NHS and wider health issues.

(For Andy Knox’s highly insightful thoughts some of them can be found at:
https://reimagininghealth.com/.)

I wrote an email a short while back to a couple of people who are working in the NHS and reading again thought for what it is worth putting some of the extracts from that here. (I appreciate that it is very UK focused (NHS) and that I am biased toward health care for all and not on the basis of income and therefore privatised. Apologies where what I write does not apply beyond that.)

It does not matter to me too much how one defines the demonic – classically as evil spirits or as spiritual non-personal powers (Walter Wink et al.) as the effect seems to be the same! The demonic is focused on dehumanising… hence the spirit of antiChrist denies that Jesus came in the flesh; enmity was declared to be between the seed of woman and the serpent’s seed; to fall short of the glory of God is to fail to be truly human etc. For this reason I see the NHS as a major target. Health care is easy to identify as a ‘good / Jesus-like’ career – not so easy to suggest hedge-fund management in the same category! We have also had a window into a revaluing of work with the term ‘essential workers’ during this lockdown. If healthcare is a ‘godly’ focus then we should not be surprised to realise that there is a strong attack against it fulfilling its mandate. If a dehumanisation process against workers is successful they will then find it harder to humanise those they care for. Hence I see a spiritual strategy that is to demoralise, dehumanise those who care, affect the culture at the core – like planting a poison at the centre. The next step is that once humanity is sidelined from something there is an openness to mammon (I see Jesus and Judas as a key paradigm to understand the interplay of discipleship, money and also religion.)

I see at the moment for many situations a 2 year period for preparation and significant paradigm shifts, from functionality to people centredness. I have been saying for many months that 2022 is when we will hit some major global crises. COVID is a crisis, but it is also a warning to make changes so that we are ready. If institutions can make a shift it will be surprising how many can come out the other side.

If the above is accurate then there is a window of opportunity now for the NHS. There will be some real heat that comes against (and might have my terminology wrong here) – the minister for health and others in places of authority / responsibility. But for those who are a ‘lower’ level there will be in a protected place. Although the 2 years is a window there will really be the possibility of a 5 year process ahead.

I see also that there are pockets of people in place around the nation that are pulling for a new ‘spirit’ in the NHS, so behind the scenes there will be a discovery of a growing set of hubs / clusters, an unofficial network.

The NHS is important also at this time in the context of the UK. It is not simply about defending what has been and how good it was, but it is a trend setter. The UK has to find a new identity – so this is not simply about a restoration of what was but a deep renewal taking place that will give it a new identity, and become something of a sign for the nation. Hence the battle.

I was hoping that Boris’ experience might have been a Damascus road (maybe with a small ‘d’) experience. From where I sit I am not sure it has been that – Paul said he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, and the grace of God was not in vain toward him – maybe Boris has, at this point, not yet yielded. There will, though, be other remarkable events to some key people that will give further shake ups.

Power and politics

Corrupting Power

The well known adage by Lord Acton:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.

In writing about the choice of king, the first one being Saul, there are some very interesting aspects about the move to kingship. First Saul was a humble chappie, hiding in the baggage. What if Saul had never been selected as king? Would he simply have been a friendly giant wandering the land? God then instructs Samuel to tell the people what the king will do, not what Saul will do, nor what a bad king will do! Is there the indication that once we give someone an exalted title and with it authority we really are setting them up (Lord Acton quote)?

Christendom…. Here is a great article I have just read:
https://www.redletterchristians.org/christians-dont-understand-how-horrible-christendom-was-as-is/

A quote from it:

Whenever the name of Jesus is invoked to vilify any group or nation, and whenever a pastor spiritualizes hate or weaponizes scripture to oppress others, and whenever biblical rhetoric is used to inflame nationalism and spread partisan fear, we must recognize these forms of spiritual manipulation for what they are: evil. Because throughout history, Christendom has been a favorite tool of dictators, authoritarians, and countless others who selfishly used it to harm others.

The dominant place afforded to institutional Christianity in Europe is over, resulting in either a hankering back with a cry of ‘we are being marginalised’, or a re-appraisal of what was done wrongly in the name of Jesus (without writing off the genuine missionary / humanitarian work). But now…

Is there a fresh offer coming to the fore in certain places not only to give Christians a place at the table, but to sit at the right hand of authority? If ‘Christendom has been a favorite tool of dictators, authoritarians, and countless others who selfishly used it to harm others’ is there a dangerous proposal that will simply empower dictators and autocrats to bring about oppression legitimised by the use of the name of Jesus (not to mention how lies can be first ignored, but left ignored for a length of time, falsehood will become ‘truth’).

With no offer on the table in Europe we are so privileged. No need even to hide in the baggage. Yes, probably some detox still needed as the hankering after power is so strong and insidious. Add to this the COVID-19 forced break, a call to re-positioning and I hear the word H-O-P-E. Ears and heart open I think is the right response.

Watch this space

Guard the space

No not an ad for the most amazing life-changing product that you cannot afford to miss! That product comes later when I reach a level of maturity that… OK maybe a piece of good advise is don’t wait around for that to happen as a lot of life will pass you by in the meantime.

Two spaces that I think we have to watch.

My take on COVID-19

Not going away any time soon. But it is a warning to signal that we are to prepare for what is beyond it. So right through this year and into the early stages of next we will be reading the daily statistics of the virus, then…. SPACE.

2021 will be a year when there is a relief. Welcomed by the ‘back to normal’ approach as a ‘glad that is behind us now we are back where we were’. But I see it as a space opening up to breathe and get set with resources for the challenge of what is beyond. I do not see God as a destroyer who deliberately pulls things down – sometimes God does that when we stick God’s name on it and insist that it is here forever (see the Temple discourses in Jeremiah and Matthew 24). If God is not an automatic destroyer and also relates to us with a huge capacity to compromise then I see the relief as space to gather the resources for the post-COVID (not suggesting that is the right term) period. 2022 will have somewhere in it ta level of crisis that means 2021 will have been essential to give us what we need, or show that we missed it by thinking the crisis was over.

So watch the space of 2021.


Sidenote on not allowed to sing!

I heard yesterday that churches (UK and I think Spain and probably elsewhere) can meet but not SING. In the light of the dream I had from 2010 for the decade up to 2020 concerning how Christian singing shut back down the façades (https://3generations.eu/posts/2020/04/facades-no-singing-please/) I find this very interesting. If we simply complain about not being able to sing (persecution???? I don’t remember the last time I went to Tescos and only being able to buy meat offered to a variety of gods… we have it easy… or of course we can see it as all foods and goods have been offered to the god of consumerism and we have been duped all those years – take our pick but not persecution, and if it was rejoice as ‘all who seek to live a godly life will suffer persecution’). If we focus on a so-called persecution and fail to lay hold of our responsibility to be agents that should hold open what the Lord has opened to expose we will so miss it. So I see the grace of heaven coming through the legislation. Nice one.

End of sidenote!


The feminisation of the future

I am writing (I think 6 booklets) and at the moment the fourth is on the egalitarian nature of the Pauline Gospel. (One of the first revelations I ever had of the land of Spain was that there was a hidden deposit of the Pauline Gospel in the land, as no other land on the basis of biblical authority can claim to have first century apostolic prayers deposited in the land.) Anyway not suggesting I am uncovering the Pauline Gospel – if I was step aside NT, Douglas, John and a whole bunch of others that I am not on first name terms with! But I am being impacted by the Pauline Gospel, and in particular I have been knocked sideways by the terse letter to the Galatians. Some crazy stuff in there, but the absolute centralising of Jesus so that everything and anything else is blasted out of the picture. In the letter of course it is Jewishness that gets the main treatment but also in the very careful change of language of Gal. 3:28 when it comes to gender difference is so noticeable.

So the space here I suggest we have to watch is that there is coming a feminisation into society. Back in the 90s I wrote a book I was very happy with back then ‘For Such a Time as This‘ where it proposed that there were no barriers to the full participation of women at any level, including female apostles in Scripture and hence today. Happy with it (then) as any book written is a snapshot in time of where the writer was at that time. The book was saying women can and are encouraged to enter the space (and my focus back then was on ‘church space’… but back then majority space was shaped by a masculinity). Now…

There is space opening, which will affect economics, politics, commerce etc., that is feminised – i.e. a different way of operating that (excuse my ignorance) will be much more collaborative than competitive. That space will be entered more easily by women but is open to men as in Christ there is no ‘male and female’.


Maybe in all the above there are connections. If the façades coming up expose a ‘masculinity in Adam’ form of the institutions that have shaped the public square, then the ‘feminisation in Christ’ can follow. As there is neither male and female in Christ of course the language is struggling to gain any real traction. Meanwhile let’s not complain about not singing. Surely we can answer the question of ‘where then do you worship’ by normally before I get out of bed, while making breakfast my heart rises to heaven, and when I come to eat I do find a real thanksgiving rise up and…

Elite or responsible?

Privileged... and so

Privilege. Most of us who read this blog are indeed among the privileged, certainly when we take in a global perspective. I appreciate though that we do not consciously live in a global environment but a local one – whether that be a geographic or social context, and so we often have a mixed experience where we are also disadvantaged in some ways. There were many privileged groups in the New Testament times, being a Roman citizen certainly set some apart as elite. It is though the shift of ‘status’ that took place through the Gospel that I am focusing on in this post.

This has come into fresh focus with some of the wider writing I am involved in and also as we have ‘zoomed’ into a situation where the predominant cultural view is that of male dominance, with Paul (and Jesus!) seen as favouring the male.

The great egalitarian text of Paul in one of his earliest pieces of writing is Gal. 3: 28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Written into the contentious situation where these non-Jewish converts were being subjected to the teaching that any follower of Jesus that was not in compliance to Jewish law was not a ‘full’ member of the community of God’s people.

This bit is strong!!

We even read of Paul confronting Peter face to face, and the strength of the conflict was very strong. There was a good (missiological) argument that had won Peter over. Those who came from James had a compelling argument: ‘how would they ever reach Jews back in the homeland if the Jewish followers of Jesus were fraternising and eating with Gentiles. For the sake of the Gospel you have to pull back, Peter.’ It does not get stronger than that, and if is or this reason I don’t think it was as simple as Peter was making a backward step but he felt compelled to take a compromising step for the sake of non-offence to the Jews, a step for the Gospel. That makes the conflict even stronger. The missiological argument could not overpower the fundamental Gospel one! (Think we have it hard trying to work out what is a godly redemptive compromise!) Back in the day, to be involved in a slave owning group who professed faith could have been argued for: a compromise for the sake of the Gospel… but eventually that compromise was not a compromise for the Gospel but a compromise of the Gospel. Deciding when that shift takes place takes wisdom and insight, and knowing what has changed in our society with respect to the Gospel likewise is very challenging.

Privilege… Either it feeds the demonic idea of elitism / above someone else; or it pushes us toward the ‘responsibility’ element. I consider that over centuries there was a downward trajectory in the life of Israel from the commissioned responsibility for sake of the nations to the elitism of chosenness. I have also been considering (of late) that maybe if we are of the ‘zionist’ bias (not one I can see in the NT at all) maybe there is also a knock on with regard to how we see the gender issue of male and female. Both seem to come from a way of reading Scripture that I find strange, but one I have to respect as I have no reason to suggest that those who read that way are not acting with integrity. I simply hope the reading is not being fuelled by any form of elitism.

With the household codes (the instructions on ‘husbands’, ‘wives’, ‘masters’, ‘slaves’, etc.) Paul follows the conventions of the day where philosophers and religious writers would lay out how their philosophy / religion would not at any level disturb the status quo of the Roman society. In our culture they are not too radical (understatement!!) but in that culture he carefully redefined them. He moved the dominant one from a position of ruling the roost to a place where they were to be an animated source of life.

There was an anonymous letter written to a person names ‘Diognetus’, mid 2nd Century, that suggested that Christians were to the world what the soul was to the body. They were to be present and animating. (The quote below is fairly long, the specific part I am referring to is in bold… so feel free to skip to that point… and apologies for the male language.)

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonour, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.
Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen.  The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

The explanation is somewhat hellenised, indicating how quickly there was a shift from a Jewish psychology to a Greek-oriented one, but nevertheless the description as an animating life-giving source is very clearly put.

In the Gospel the privilege of Jew over Greek was nullified (I count it all ‘dung’ said one very privileged Jew; the NT era Jews were basically given a generation to respond to Jesus etc.); the rich were always being slapped about – we do not read ‘woe to you poor!’ but we often read ‘woe to you rich’; and in the Gospel any male privilege that might be inferred from creation is totally cancelled. The Greek of Gal. 3:28 seems to deliberately use the same construction as we find in Genesis, but reversing it – no ‘male and female’.

No privilege, indeed we might suggest that there is a bias the other way because of the Gospel! And any privilege that society might give, or we find ourselves in is to promote life (the shift in Paul’s household codes), to work toward an egalitarianism with everyone finding true life, and a corresponding emptying out of the privilege. Privilege is to be temporal and can only be in order to move things in the direction of the new creation.

2020 – 2022

A Two year Window

In the past days I have been on a few Zoom calls and some of what I see for the next season has been pulled on. I thought it might be of some value to put it down here, some of which in bits and pieces I have shared before. It needs of course to be weighed and if there is a projection on my part of expectations those will colour what I write. Prayer and revelation is not here to give us what we expect but what we need to enable participate in any forward God movement. Finally any sight has to be supplemented by sight from others.

In the first few days of January it became clear to us that 2020 was not going to be a year that could be planned out. It would be a disrupted year, the important part was that we could not plan as per normal but would have to respond as the disruptions occurred. For many this has been a painful year and I do not write in any way to diminish that experience; we weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I acknowledge the diversity of experiences but also want to give a focus to push against the hope of those who are simply waiting for things to return to normal. God makes everything beautiful in its time and we have to discover what it is that God is beautifying.

It is fairly self-evident that there is a RESET taking place. The concept of a reboot is vital for many sectors, and the use now of the term ‘essential workers’ has been a redemptive and perceptive phrase. I suspect it will soon disappear from the active vocabulary as a measure of recovery comes. Crisis has value if we change… if not!!

There will be a bouncing back… it is OK to go with it to a measure, but the focus has to remain on the reset. However as the bouncing back is heralded (2021?) we should not get carried away. The reset has to go much deeper that a temporary change (everything online) and then back to a thank God here comes the normal!

For those who are seeking to find what God has in this season, as opposed to waiting for this season to end, it is not so much a reboot but a reset. The vision might need to be tweaked but the vision is the vision. A refocus might be required, but it is essentially about resetting. As in many sports there comes a point that the team needs to be reset in order to achieve the desired outcome. Perhaps the format of the team, or new plays need to be introduced. We are now in a period of reset and even when a measure of recovery comes, even if we might be able to go with it to some extent, the important element remains that the reset needs to be completed.

There is a 2 year window to push through this reset, ideally if it can be done in 18 months the better. In 2022 – I do not suspect at the beginning – I see global elements of crises appearing that will bust open the cracks. COVID-19 is serious but is also a sign of what is to come, and is signalling to us now that there is a period of time in which we can get ready for this.

The reset is to check alignments. There are alignments from the past season that will quickly prove to be energy sapping for the next. An important element to avoid in this season is filling all the space. There are also alignments that have become loose that need tightening up. However, we approach it the issue of ALIGNMENTS is key in this reset.

Also get ready to change direction. There will likely be for a number of people the sudden openness of new outlets that they have skirted around the edges of before. They will come with a fresh angle / approach and then open up.

The favour of God is going to be with those who are not giving themselves to protect the structures / institutions but invest in the people. This might well mean embracing what might seem a smaller influence, but invest small and deep and there will both be longer lasting results and also protection into the phase that opens in 2022.

At the same time God is at work not simply with ‘me / us’. We are not at the centre. We can flow with what God is doing, but the future is not being shaped for us as individuals. So I suggest that there are people now who are being loosened up from their former concepts that only got them thus far. The loosening will mean fresh sight to those people and also fresh space for new connections. There are many hubs being shaped at this time… a hidden few here and a hidden few there.

Coming clean

British Past

Back in the day so much prayer was focused on specifics such as the Berlin conference of the late 19th Century that carved up Africa for the Europeans. Alongside 13 European nations the USA was also involved. Alongside specifics a large amount of effort went into ‘rolling up the Roman road’, seeking to undo the effects of empire. We had some incredible encouraging signs and yet… But now so much seems to connect.

We should not expect that all movements that seek to address the issues are going to do it perfectly. If the body of Christ does not execute her task perfectly why do we have higher standards for the world!!

So much of history is covered over. I have found again and again that history stays hidden until uncovered through prayer. Once it is out the lid cannot be put on the box again. For the Brits among us here is a good article to check up on the British and part of our imperial history:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/16/boris-johnson-lying-history-britain-empire

I am definitely not patriotic. I find that to be in direct conflict with my commitment to Jesus. I cannot give any allegiance that conflicts with my allegiance to Christ. There are of course arguments as to what was achieved through empire, the sending of missionaries etc. It has even been suggested that the ‘fullness of times’ when Jesus came was the Roman Empire, one language, roads and so the gospel could spread! The context of those verses point in a radically different direction.

God maximises all possibilities. After all he even used a king in Israel! To find some good that came through something reveals nothing about the ‘thing’ in question.

The uncovering, the reaction is not going to go away. If I can be so bold as to suggest the prayer ensures that. And once we have prayed, we cannot then push it all back in cos what came out was not what we were expecting! Prayer does not unlock what we expect, it unlocks what we need.

We have hit mid-way through this decade a governmental crisis. We have leaders who are comfortable to lie. We have hit the sign of the COVID virus that is the wake up call… behind this comes the economic crisis that will have some back and forths but will come at a new level in 2022, when as yet some unforeseen combination of setbacks will hit.

Our response? Bunker down? Or use this time to allow for some personal readjustment to line up with God’s agenda. Early on in this ‘less than pretty time’ I cottoned on to the Ecclesiastes verses that God makes everything beautiful in its time. God is never inactive, never non-redemptive. There is always activity that he is involved in.

Loads of questions in this time, but I also see it as a major shift.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!