Posted by: Postordinandy | August 4, 2009

Sticking a finger in the chest of injustice

We moved into perhaps more challenging territory for our 3rd session on the Exilio course… thus far, we have looked at the ideas of ‘dangerous memories’ and ‘dangerous stories’

 These have been relatively easy concepts to grapple with, and even to put into practice:

  • As God’s people, we need to remember that God has acted in the past, and is acting now
  • We should aim to bless the culture we find ourselves in, as a sign of the reality of God’s Kingdom
  • We should embrace and celebrate those parts of the culture that are appropriate so to do

The 3rd section of Mike Frost’s book Exiles is entitled ‘dangerous criticism’, and highlights the role of the Christian community with respect of challenging those things of the culture which operate against the values of the Kingdom.

In the DVD that accompanies the course, Mike Frost admits that the church has “not been backward in this area in the past”, and that this has sometimes (understandably) given the church a bad name. But Frost reminds us that we can only legitimately critique our culture if we have made both the effort to understand it, and – perhaps more importantly – have been prepared to bless it also.

There are plenty of examples of how God’s people have managed to successfully walk this particular tightrope.

In Genesis 41 we read the account of how the captive Joseph served the Egyptian Empire well – interpreting the Pharaoh’s prophetic dreams of future famine, and even managing the empire’s pre-emptive disaster relief response system as a result.

Later, we see Daniel (politely) refusing to eat the food offered to false gods, and flourishing on a vegetarian diet instead – and later illegally praying to his God despite the threat of becoming Lion fodder.

Then some of Daniel’s friends get lobbed into a furnace for refusing to bow down to a statue of the earthly king. As they are thrown in they boldly declare that their God will save them (which He duly did) – but that “even if he doesn’t…

Joseph, Daniel and the three friends all serve their captive culture as faithfully as they are able, blessing it when they can, seeking the best for those around them. But they also are able to clearly see the line that they must not cross, and resist it accordingly.

Jesus too, naturally, is able to critique the culture he finds himself in – embracing some aspects of it (famously at a rather boozy wedding), and standing up to be counted against others (the hypocrisy of many religious elite, the god-complex seen in the Roman leadership). Often we see him tearing down the man-made barriers that separate the ‘acceptable’ from the ‘unacceptable’ – witness his interaction with the ‘unclean’, the diseased, the poor, the unloved: the sinners and aliens of his time.

For too many people, the historic church is synonymous with the very systems that promote some people above and then preserve their position. Just recently there was an article published about who was selected for leadership within the Church of England entitled: “the churches bias against the poor” – what would Jesus be saying to us about this?

Dangerous Criticism involves being able to “stick a finger in the chest” of anything that creates or sustains such injustice and inequality – to say: “this is not on”…and to do something about it.

Perhaps the most important word here is word in the sentence above is ‘anything’. Christians have perhaps been guilty of being very selective in the causes we have chosen to invest in. It should come as no surprise that some outside of the church have issues with our community, and therefore our God, if we appear to only stand up when our comfort or freedom is challenged, but remain silent on the plight of others unlike us. It reminds us of the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller “they came for me”.

There is too much injustice in this world, it is overwhelming – but we cannot stand back and despair or stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best. Christians serve a God who is generous, and who can redeem good from even the darkest place – but one who often represents the antithesis of the values of our host empire.

As Frost reminds us: “no one will congratulate us for standing up for Kingdom values against the values of the Empire… there is an imperial furnace out there somewhere”. Despite this, perhaps because if this – and if we wish to live as God’s people within a culture that is not yet fully redeemed – we simply must bless what we can (including all people), and stand up against what we cannot bless (systems that create injustice and favouritism).

 Christian-Aid

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