Category Archives: shalom

New Wine – New Wineskins: Luke 5:36-39

By Sheryl Haw

Every generation needs to routinely take time to research, enquire and envision on how the Gospel is impacting the church and the world today.

Looking back through recent history we owe a great deal to those who inspired such spaces for reflection and obediently initiated the change that was needed. Responding to a perceived deficit or gap often requires an intentional focus on the missing need, at times to the expense of or the forfeiting of other important aspects. Hence the constant need to humbly walk together before God seeking his direction and focus remains the anchor we need to adhere to.

We are grateful for those who initiated “rethinking” processes. Rethinking mission, rethinking church, rethinking discipleship, rethinking …… We recognise the importance of movements that have stimulated the process of change and transformation, both within global and national contexts. We earnestly encourage the ongoing reflections and courage for change that will always be needed until Christ returns.

And what of today? What disquiet and unease is God’s Spirit prompting us to address? What structures and traditions, and ways of doing things do we need to lay down in order for the new to be released?

In a world so hungry for:

  • individual success, at the expense of family, community, morality, humanity and environment well being
  • love, of anything or anyone that addictively and temporarily fills this need
  • status and position, a constant need to be affirmed, praised, sort after, wanted, admired, envied.
  • charismatic, larger than life leaders who will sell a lie so convincingly that even the church signs up for it.

What is our response?

For me the teaching and practice of integral mission has and continues to be a catalyst that prompts us to continually seek God and his transforming Spirit to help us discern what next steps we need to take.

I am convinced that the Gospel is the power to transform all things in heaven and earth in Christ.

  • To end wars and to reconcile people – only the Gospel has the power to heal the pain, restore all the years the locusts have eaten, and to bring those who were once enemies together as family
  • To redeem and restore the devastating impact of climate change – heal the land, turn back the droughts and enable the land, flora and fauna, to flourish
  • To fill the hungry with good food
  • To bring justice and mercy to all, especially those who have been oppressed and exploited and abused
  • To bring hope and joy to life, especially to those who have robbed of this
  • To bring community and fellowship to those who have been isolated, marginalised and alone
  • To bring healing and wholeness to all those who our broken hearted and diseased
  • To bring life is all its fullness – Shalom
  • To know our God personally and corporately and to walk with Him in the cool of the day

The unease I believe the Spirit of God is prompting us to act on is our unbelief in the Gospel. We have either:

  • Preferred to imagine an escape plan from all the troubles in the world
    • Immediate: churches becoming “safe” zones from the world
    • Future: Jesus’ return will take us all elsewhere for a new start
    • Spiritualised: the signs of the world end has to come before Christ returns…
  • Preferred to imagine we can make things good by doing good alone
    • Immediate: aid delivery gives a temporary reprieve and has a feel-good factor
    • Future: Jesus’ return will complete what we have started,
    • Spiritualised: Mobilise all to do good so that when Christ returns, we will be rewarded
  • Prefer not to imagine and comfortable to just live for today and do enough to ease our guilt.

No matter how much we teach and act with an integral mission perspective, unless we believe that the Gospel is the power to change lives and situations we will remain in the tension of the above.

The compulsion to proclaim the Gospel that we read about in the Bible comes from the experienced belief in its power to liberate, redeem, restore and reconcile.

The compulsion to do good works we read about in the Bible comes from experiencing the Good News and loving as Christ loves us.

I believe we need to ask God to fan into flame our first love, be prepared to face opposition, commit to lives of integrity and holiness, to stand against injustice in all its forms, to stop all forms of spiritual hypocrisy – be authentic and obedient to Christ, to take time to strengthen ourselves in God’s Word, and to repent and act today in keeping with all that God has called us to as the Body of Christ.

I believe this needs to happen to every believer, every church, every organisation and college. We need to fall in love again. Then, God will show us the new wineskins he has prepared for us for today.

Peace and Reconciliation

A terzanelle related to peace and reconciliation (Micah 5:5; Matthew 5:9; Ephesians 2:13-18)

By Salvatore Anthony Luiso


Christ died to make reconciliation

He is the great peacemaker in God’s plan

He is the head of a holy nation.



To bring about peace between God and man,

The Son of God died as a sacrifice

He is the great peacemaker in God’s plan.


Yet God paid for more with that precious price

For peace among men Christ suffered that cost

The Son of God died as a sacrifice.


To repossess peace when it has been lost,

One must seek after, must pursue, that peace

For peace among men Christ suffered that cost.


One may need to strive hard to make strife cease

Christ Himself strove for the peace that He sought

One must seek after, must pursue, that peace.



Praise be to God for the peace He has wrought

Christ died to make reconciliation,

Christ Himself strove for the peace that He sought

He is the head of a holy nation.

Integral Mission and Resilience Part Two

David Boan

In this, the second of three articles on resilience, we ask if there is evidence for a connection between integral mission and resilience. As before, we focus on evidence from peer reviewed literature.

In the first post we asked “what is resilience?”. We presented research showing that the concept of resilience is growing beyond disaster and trauma research; that the concept is broadening and includes a variety of personal and community traits and resources, including faith. Given this evidence, does it follow that integral mission advances resilience? To answer this question, we will summarize the elements of integral mission. We then present a sample of research that suggests the elements of integral mission are also found in resilient communities.

What are the actions that are associated with Integral Mission? If we look to the Cape Town Commitment CTC) we will find the following (selected excerpts in italics):

We urge Church leaders and pastors to equip all believers with the courage and the tools to relate the truth with prophetic relevance to everyday public conversation, and so to engage every aspect of the culture we live in.

Believers are to be equipped to engage in society and culture, to be active participants in community life (public conversation) and engage the culture.

We encourage Christ-followers to be actively engaged in these spheres (government, business and academia), both in public service or private enterprise, in order to shape societal values and influence public debate.

Believers not only engage in discussion, they shape the public debate.

Corruption is condemned in the Bible. It undermines economic development, distorts fair decision-making and destroys social cohesion. No nation is free of corruption. We invite Christians in the workplace, especially young entrepreneurs, to think creatively about how they can best stand against this scourge.

This is a call for exercising prophetic voice. To speak prophetically is to speak out publicly on God’s behalf when the community, government or organisation is violating God’s plan. Here, it is specifically a call to confront corruption.

We urge church pastors and leaders to teach biblical truth on ethnic diversity. We must positively affirm the ethnic identity of all church members.

Here the Commitment calls for welcoming diversity and speaking out against racism and other forms of oppression and prejudice.

For the sake of the gospel, we lament, and call for repentance where Christians have participated in ethnic violence, injustice or oppression.

Continuing the theme of diversity, the CTC recognises Christians have also participated in racism and calls for repentance and correction.

Expose, resist, and take action against all abuse of children, including violence, exploitation, slavery, trafficking, prostitution, gender and ethnic discrimination, commercial targeting, and willful neglect.

Our final example is related to violence against children in all its forms. These are not the sum of the CTCs, but they are examples of specific actions that are part of Integral Mission, actions that include confronting violence, child abuse, and corruption, as well as valuing ethnic diversity and becoming active participation in the public sphere. We can now ask if there is evidence of a connection between these actions and resilience.

Starting with the example of engaging in the public sphere, we do not attempt to engage in the practical or philosophical questions of what the church should do, but only focus on the narrow question of effect. That is, what is the effect when a church engages in the community and is that effect consistent with the aims of integral mission.

Our first example comes from Pieterse who looked at ten church community projects in South Africa. Using in-depth interviews, he asked how these projects impacted the well being of the poor. He noted numerous benefits, from economic support to health to well-being, but central to them all was the sense among the recipients that these were provisions from God, which led to a sense of spiritual well-being. Pieterse summarises his findings from his interviews as:

The category of spiritual well-being of the poor now forms the central concept in this conceptual framework of the effects of congregational projects on the well-being of the poor. All the other categories [of church service] are related to this central concept … God’s love in action in the experience of well-being of the poor (emphasis added). (p.7)

Churches create social capital by bringing together people who share a common faith and values and building relationships among them. In the process, the people are informed about the content of their faith identity and how that identity relates to the larger world. This results in equipping people to become active in their communities and reach out beyond the walls of their church. Engaging with people across social boundaries and barriers is a key element of resilience.

There are studies looking at the impact of lowering boundaries between people, such as the integration of minorities and immigrants into society, and the resilience of the community. Lester and Ngyuen asked if US communities that assist immigrants to integrate across all sectors of the community (as opposed to relegating them to ethnic enclaves) fare better compared to those that do not. In this study, resilience was measured as changes in unemployment and income over a ten-year period that included the great recession. Employment diversity was used as a proxy for community support for immigrants and refugees. After studying twenty matched communities, they found evidence that communities that more broadly integrated immigrants across the economy fared better during the great recession than communities where immigrants were more compartmentalised. They see the difference as rooted in reducing social and economic barriers to the inclusion of immigrants and minorities, which leads to occupational diversity.

The connection between poverty and resilience is well established, but what about the ability of churches to reduce the number of people in poverty? As you may expect, this is not a simple yes or no question. Eliminating poverty is more than providing resources. It requires a more complex attention to policy, economic factors, and a host of factors that create opportunity for the poor. Kretzschmar provides an informative analysis from comparing the experience in Chile with that in South Africa. In Chile the Catholic Church was consistent in its support of the poor and standing against the corruption and flawed polices of the government, all of which is seen as an important factor in the reduction of poverty and economic disparity in Chile. In contrast, the role of the church in South Africa was more mixed, in some cases complicit with the apartheid government. Likewise, progress on poverty and disparity was mixed. Kretzschmar concludes …

“In the future, the impact of the church on the government’s policies and practices with respect to poverty alleviation will depend on its credibility within civil society. Such credibility will derive from the church’s own intellectual and practical involvement in social protection and poverty reduction, and its freedom from the materialism of our time.”

Finally, can the church reduce violence against children? The current campaign to end violence against children rests in part on an assumption that engaging faith communities is necessary for success. But is there evidence to support this assumption? This is another complex issue. Child abuse is often associated with certain church groups. For example, churches and individuals that see God as punitive and condemning are more likely to engage in abusive practices toward children. What these churches and communities with high rates of child abuse have in common is social isolation. When churches engage with their communities, including working with agencies such as social services, they become factors in the reduction of child maltreatment. We argue that community engagement is fundamental to integral mission, and that such engagement has broad community impact, including reduction of violence.

Obviously, these are not conclusive reviews of the evidence, but the evidence shown does suggest a pattern. We conclude that our sampling of evidence provides support that at least some of the elements of Integral Mission, as described in the Cape Town Commitment, are shown to be related to community resilience. It should also be obvious to the reader that not all faith groups embrace these actions. In fact, there are unfortunate examples of faith groups contributing to ethnic violence, corruption, and division within their communities. Thus, we cannot say that these actions occur automatically among people of faith. Hence, the call for trained leaders who properly teach and equip believers.

Since this is not a comprehensive review of the evidence, the reader should view this as a starting point for conversation and not a definitive answer to the question of integral mission and resilience.

This leads us to the third and final question for our discussion: Is there anything unique about the church’s contribution to resilience? Or, put another way, does the church, as the church (and not as an NGO), live in a way that results in greater resilience in the community?

David Boan
14th March 2018

Liberation’s Option

By Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, Lead Co-oordinator for Integral Mission at Micah Philippines

Ever bought those nice finds in rummage shops for a cheaper price? But once you unpack it at home, you suddenly realize that it was already without the full package of the original? I myself once found a good pair of sneakers ‘on sale’ but minus the original shoestrings. Obviously, it made me think twice whether I should settle for the bargain and just live with what was lacking. In today’s marketplace of Christianity, one would also encounter similar versions of theological goodies on sale. The price tag may come appealing but what you might get is wanting upon closer inspection.

A case for example, do a careful re-reading of the Bible and it shall make today’s popular offer of salvation, i.e., “your soul’s chance of migrating to heaven,” look like no different from those rundown goods on a markdown sale.[1] This blunt comparison has to be made considering that God’s plan of redemption, that is, his mission of renewing all that He has made, includes the planet, its people, and their pattern of life. That is, today’s devastated creation, polluted rivers and corrupted human beings alike, including the deteriorating cultures and civilizations that thrive within it are all objects of God’s liberating mission. [2]

I came upon this observation upon realizing that the Bible speaks of salvation as the full restoration of all aspects of life in the world, exactly as God has sketched it from the very beginning.[3] A blueprint of this plan can be found in the initial pages of the book of Genesis.[4] In it, the writer presents a picture of a life wherein God and humanity were happily together, in a beautiful dwelling place, and with a pattern of relationship marked by trust, nurture, and joy. The Hebrews of old have a term for this particular way of life characterized by remarkable harmony – ‘shalom.’ Repeatedly, their prophets speak of a dream and a hope that is no less beautiful (see for example: Isaiah 65:17-25, Jeremiah 31, Micah 4).

Shalom is simply the Old Testament’s planetary vision for what in the New Testament was often referred to as God’s gift of ‘salvation.’ But make no mistake about it, the apostles Peter, John, and Paul have in mind a notion of redemption that is as equally comprehensive as that of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The Victory of Christ

For an instance, Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:20 speaks of how God, through Christ and by His work on the cross, is reconciling “all things” in heaven and on earth back to Himself.[5] In this verse, the apostle to the Gentiles was alerting his readers at the city of Colossae that until then all of these things have been snatched away from God. And indeed, for a time, the whole world was in the clutches of the Evil One who has sought to steal all that was in it, drain it of its life, and ultimately cause its destruction (John 10:10). But this is not because this fiendish being has proven to be stronger than God and has actually prevailed against Him. No! It is simply because he has effectively triumphed over creation’s designated ruler and steward -human beings. To put it in contemporary terms, the Evil One laid siege on God’s earth, held its human rulers and inhabitants hostage, and terrorized what he was able to capture with his flag firmly planted in their hearts and homeland.[6]

How such terrorism of God’s creation happened is a loop that repeats itself throughout human history. But Genesis 1-3 unlock to us the internal mechanism of how this subtle infiltration works out. It tells a story of how the Serpent tricked the newly weds Adam and Eve and managed to subdue them under his will. By listening to the Enemy’s lies, the couple threw away God’s wonderful plan for their lives which is to be the world’s rightful ruler and caretaker (Gen. 1:27-27, 2:15). In effect, they exchanged God’s royal image in them (as prince and princess) for a lowly status of a refugee and a vagabond. Thereafter, the Evil One and his minions presented themselves as ‘gods’ and ‘rulers’ of this world (II Cor. 4:4, John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2). Later on, the Evil One even got the nerve to bribe God’s own Son in the flesh with all of the world’s riches and glory (which he claims to be his) in exchange for an undivided allegiance to him (Matt. 4:8-10).

But God’s Son knew better. He knew that His Father is launching a take-over project. That he was sent with a messianic mission of reclaiming control of all that which his Father has created, away from the clutches of the Evil One, and restore it to its rightful rulers. As John understands it, God’s Son was sent for the specific purpose of destroying the devil’s work (I John 3:8). Apostle Paul in Colossians 2:15 talks of how God’s Son has disarmed the Evil One and his minions of their powers. In his letter to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4:8-10), he added how God’s Messiah has so effectively triumphed over them and that he succeeded in giving back to human beings their royal identities (Eph. 2:6, Col. 3:4). By a swift execution of this covert operation, the power of the Evil One has been broken, or as CS Lewis puts it in his famous novel, the grim spell of dark magic casted by the Great White Witch has been undone, at Aslan’s slaying at the Stone Table, and thereafter, Narnia and the Narnians were free again.[7]

Liberating the Planet. Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8 that the natural environment “groans in pain” as its await its liberation from decay in as much as humanity struggles to be set free from whatever it is that enslaves it whether selfishness, sickness, or even death itself.[8] The outpouring of God’s Spirit in people’s hearts (Ezek. 36:25-27), and the remarkable personal and social transformation that comes with it, is the earth’s assurance that one day it shall also see its own light of day. That is, liberated from the curse of devastation, the earthly realm shall once again be in full bloom. Apostle Peter speaks of God’s purifying fire that shall render the old heavens and old earth no more to usher in a new world (II Peter 3:12-13). The final picture was painted with more vivid details by Apostle John in his apocalyptic book (aka the Revelation). In its final chapters, he wrote down his vision of a new city of Jerusalem coming down from the heavens into a new earth. And he saw God dwelling with human beings once more in a place where there shall be no more tears, or pain, or sickness (Rev. 21:1-4).

Liberating its People. It is with this planetary renewal that the New Testament also pictures the promise of our bodily resurrection.[9] God’s work of transforming human beings into a new creation (Col. 3:10) does not stop with a renewal of personal morality and social relationships (Col. 3:5-11), not even with the security of one’s soul (I Peter 1:9). It includes, perhaps, most importantly, a promise of gaining a physical body free from imperfections and decay and death itself, exactly as the one Christ himself carried with him when he rose from the grave. Paul explains that as citizens of an new eternal city, its inhabitants shall need a new body that would be as equally glorious (I Cor. 15:35-55). If anything, this belief in bodily resurrection sets the early church’s understanding of salvation as sharply opposed to that of their Greek culture they inhabit which thinks of salvation as the liberation of the soul from the body.

While this hope of bodily redemption can easily be taken for granted by the average person, it is definitely good news for those who suffered from blindness and other physical ailments. That the lame can one day run and swim again, and that those born deaf can hear the most beautiful of Mozart’s musical composition shall be a most splendid news for those who went through life bereft of such simple joys. That this new body defies even the threat of death as well only means that the joys of life in the new heavens and new earth is something that human beings will enjoy with God not only for a limited moment but for eternity.

Liberating their Patterns of Life. As mentioned already, selfishness is part of what Christ has set human beings to be free of. This particular trait cuts across both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of human relationships. This is because what is commonly regarded as ‘sinful’ acts are basically manifestations of a disposition of the heart and attitude of the mind that have no regard for the will of God and the welfare of other people. The so called problem of sin, at its very core, is an issue of idolatry at one level and apathy on another.[10] That is, the relentless turning of one’s desire to godlike proportions and putting one’s personal interest to the disregard (and in many times, to the detriment) of another human being. All the horrors of humanity, corruption and injustice in government, abuses and oppression in society, etc. can be rooted in this twin habits of the human heart.

In its place, Christ left the world with a way of living that mashes-up one’s love for God and one’s love for neighbor as two inseparable sides of the same coin (Luke 10:25-37).[10] At the cross, he exemplified what it means to live a life of sacrificial love (John 15:14, I John 3:16).[12] All who are to be called his disciples are enjoined to follow in his footsteps and live a life of compassion, forgiveness, and humility.[13] Christ spelled out how this pattern of life works out in everyday life most specifically in what is now called as the “Sermon on the Mount.”[14] Simply stated, to live a life that is godly is to be a good neighbor to all people, especially those mostly in need. This pattern of Christlike living has not only confronted but also influenced cultures and civilizations on what it means to look after the less fortunate and how to look upon and treat those pushed at the margins of society.[15]

This brief sketch of a possible re-reading of key passages in the New Testament shows that at the heart of what God sought to accomplish in history may well be about the liberation of life for all of His creation -the bees, the birds, your neighborhood and its cultural practices, including the rivers and hills in which it is located (Acts 17:26). Perhaps, this musing can provide an alternative for those coming out shortchanged as they look for what salvation is all about in today’s shopping complex of Christian goodies.

-Rei Lemuel Crizaldo

NOTES:
[1] This soteriological notion is reflected in popular Gospel presentations such as Evangelism Explosion (EE), Simplified Bridge Illustration, the Roman Road, and even in what is called as “The Wordless Book.” By the way it formulates the Good News, it also necessarily reduces the concept of salvation as finding the solution to the problem of sin and its punishment (the fires of hell) by securing the destiny of one’s soul in heaven. But as Prof. John Stackhouse Jr. of Regent College reminds us, “An understanding of salvation that amounts to a sort of spiritual individualism is little better than Gnosticism.” This is why he thinks there is a need to “redouble our efforts to teach what the Bible teaches about salvation in all its glorious complexity and scope” and“prod evangelical theology toward a vision of salvation as large as God’s mission to the world He loves and redeems” (see the book he edited, “What Does it Mean to Be Saved? Broadening Evangelical Horizons of Salvation” published by Baker Academic in 2002). This blogpost is a humble contribution to such a clarion call.
[2] Unfortunately, the term ‘liberation’ has been so rigidly associated (or even, ‘hijacked’) in theological literature as referring to the movement called Liberation Theology developed in Latin America (cf., Gustavo Gutierrez). But the term itself is a rich word that captures a lot of what the Bible says about ‘redemption.’ I am of the opinion, that the word might as well be redeemed from the usual theological baggage associated with it and be given a fresh lease of life. Interestingly, the Micah Global has recently framed its missiological understanding along the lines of ‘liberation’: “Scripture has a ‘liberating’ theme running through it and the climax of the Good News message is one of redemption and restoration. God is our Liberator, not only of humanity, but of all creation… We are to be signposts, demonstrating God’s liberating agenda for his world, proclaiming and pointing to the ultimate liberation of all things in heaven and earth when Christ returns” (cf., Sheryl Haw, Micah Global Inform October 2017 – “God’s Liberating Agenda”).
[3] The works of Old Testament scholars such as Walter Brueggemann (“Theology of the Old Testament”) and Chris Wright (“The Mission of God”), including the works of New Testament theologian NT Wright (initially, his book, “Surprised by Hope”), as well as the numerous articles of Latino missiologist C. Rene Padilla became formative influences in my reflections.
[4] I previously run a series of blogposts on this topic. First post can be found here: http://xgenesisrei.tumblr.com/post/159811395065/lifes-perfect-playbook
[5] Elsewhere, in Ephesians 1:8-10, Paul said that this project of reconciling everything in the heavens and on earth to Christ is God’s “secret plan.”
[6] This led some thinkers such as Greg Boyd to develop an overtly negative picture of the world wherein it has been so-wretched by Satan’s works that God has totally lost control of it. According to him, the whole world has turned into a kingdom of darkness and doom in which God’s people are called by God to set themselves apart. See his book “The Myth of a Christian Nation.”
[7] This storyline is from CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. But the idea of liberating the world from the dominion of the Evil One is articulated in what is called as the “Christus Victor” theory of the atonement. In essence, this theory highlights the ultimate issue underlying all that is wrong and broken in the world -the cosmic conflict between good and evil in the universe. It focuses on the element that what Christ has accomplished in his earthly mission is to liberate the world from Satan and undo the havoc that he and his demons has wrought upon God’s good creation. Simply said, the problem of humanity is not simply a sin-problem but a more bigger problem of devilish dominion.
It is unfortunate that the individualism and secularism of the Western world, with its skepticism of the paranormal and supernatural beings such as angels and demons, have paved the way for the monopolization in soteriology (theology of salvation) of the atonement theory called as ‘penal-substitution.’ This particular theory teaches that what Christ came to do is to pay for the sins of humanity and serve as their substitute sacrificial offering to appease God’s wrath and let them off the hook of His judgment and punishment in the lake of fire. It fostered a rather narrowed-down idea of redemption as basically an issue of sin-management and at a very personal level.
But the surge of Pentecostalism recaptured the notion of spiritual warfare and the importance of being delivered from the activities of evil demonic spirits. It brought back into the table the neglected dimensions of soteriology that involves the need to free the world not only from penalty of sin but also from the power of Satan.
[8] Paul used in this verse the Greek word ‘eleutheroo’ which means to be set at liberty. Same word used by Paul in Galatians 5:1. ‘To be set free’ is the common translation in English but the picture suggested by the Greek is to possess liberty.
[9] Walter Brueggemann insists that people’s identity are closely tied up to the land they inhabit, even and most especially, the people of God (see his book “The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith”).
[10] Interestingly, Apostle Paul taught both the believers in Ephesus and at Colossae that greed is basically a case of idolatry (Col. 3:5 and Eph. 5:5).
[11] Elsewhere, Jesus called this two commands as the greatest of all (Matt 22:36-40 and Mark 12:28-34). John the Beloved vividly captured the fusion of the two commands by saying, “If people say, ‘I love God,’ but hate their brothers or sisters, they are liars. Those who do not love their brothers and sisters, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have never seen” (I John 4:20).
[12] It is by laying down this example of giving one’s life for another that Jesus left a new commandment to his disciples in John 13:33. Unlike what he regarded as the greatest of all the commandments in the Old Testament, his new command raises the bar of love for one’s neighbor -no longer just love for one’s self but Christ’s love for the world.
[13] Perhaps, the Old Testament counterpart to this kind of life is what prophet Micah enjoined the Israelites to do as the sum of what Yahweh expects from them: “This is what God requires of you: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).
[14] See Matthew chapters 5-7.
[15] Works abound on how the ethical teachings of Jesus have left a deep impact in Western society that in time has embraced Christianity not only as a way of life but also a way of organizing society. See for example Rodney Stark’s “The Rise of Christianity” and Alvin Schmidt’s “Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization” and Glenn Sunshine’s “Why You Think the Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home.” On how the early church made such a deep impact to Roman society, see Helen Reese’s “Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation.”

 

Prince of Peace?

As we head towards Christmas and celebrate the Prince of Peace coming into the world, it is hard to rationalise this truth with the world news that points to ever increasing violence and suffering. Some would even say it is utopian to imagine a world without conflict, suffering, injustice and poverty.

As we continue to pray for the DRC, and especially Beni, as they face atrocities that appear to be driven by those who seek economic benefit from instability, it is difficult to imagine peace for communities there. In a world in need of food, clean water, shelter and health access, we are astounded to see how much money goes into military activities. Societies even vote for leaders who promise to increase military expenditure!

How do we speak peace/shalom into contexts like these?

We can hope for the promise of peace when Christ returns. (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3; Psalm 46:8-10). Revelation paints an exciting picture of wealth being shared, of no more death, no more war, no more suffering. The presence of the tree of life whose leaves will be used to heal the nations (Revelation 22:2) gives us a sense of hope and anticipation.

More than that – the level of reconciliation that God promises is one in which the lion and lamb lie down together (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25).

This redemption and restoration includes not only humanity but all of creation, which we know is groaning for this to happen (Romans 8:22). We read in Revelation 5:13-14 that all creatures will be praising God.

What a joyful future to imagine, to hope for, to believe in and to move towards!

But what about today?

On the one hand we lament and protest against the injustice, the suffering, the conflict, and the poverty we see today, but on the other hand we rejoice in the knowledge that God will defeat evil and will bring peace.

Ambassadors and Servants

We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors of this New Kingdom. In everything we do and say we represent to our hurting world the truth of the new Kingdom and we live in its reality so that wherever we are, we are salt and light for people to taste and see the tangible evidence. We are also servants and follow in our Master’s footsteps to bring liberation, freedom, healing, comfort and hope to all around us. Jesus had time for the one in the crowd who needed his healing, as well as for the 5,000 on the hillside who needed to be fed.

As we pray, lament, protest and rejoice we declare the Kingdom of God, we proclaim the Good News in a world that so needs this truth.

Come, let’s walk together!

By Sheryl Haw