By now we know that eras of lack and conflict can raise fear and rancor, and make hard-pressed times more challenging. Transitions often mark a cycle of affect, repair, and healing.
A heritage theology can return us to our roots, and give the heart and courage to prune or uproot what no longer serves. Now is the time for the church to reclaim its mantle and ministry in the following fields:
Kingdom Come Trilogy to release Winter 2020/21
We disentangle from wealth and politics including ideology. We reclaim our identity as family of God at work in the world. This discernment means exercising faith into practice at the local level. A humbling of what we know or convictions we hold through service. We confess where we've erred, and notice where our error may have hurt others (see Jms. 5:16). For instance, using the church as a platform for hyper-headship, instead of a leadership that Scriptures proves rightness in Proverbs, the Beatitudes, and by the example of Jesus laying down his life in love to serve (see 1 John 4:7-21; John 10; Matt. 5). We no longer concede that abuse accomplishes our goals.
We resist the adrenal lure to concede that violence, suffering, and deficit of character justify a stance of pro- or anti- anything. We grieve the Spirit of "power, love, and a sound mind" when we angle and argue over entitlement of ideology or resources that other people do the work of the church. We stop megaphoning fear and hate, and instead preach the Word in season and out (see Eph. 4:30).
Not all governments take turns or safeguard dissent. We grapple with the voices we've muted, and long to hear them for the wisdom that they can teach us (see Matt. 5). We begin to discern a peeling off of layers, however painful, to what we've been taught or conditioned, for what benefit we need must eclipse what we permit (1 Cor. 6:12, 10:23). Such discernment may invite us to find new fellowship with others who've also walked this new understanding, and renounce affiliations, but not compassion or prayer, for those false prophets who sold the church out for a political gamble to accomplish the mission that is the church is supposed to do.
"A poor and wise man by his wisdom saved a city" (Eccl. 9:15). A Proverbs character and Ephesians mouth matter. The hate, fear, and disunity clue us that the divided church chose unholy methods because maybe by self-righteousness, as the Pharisees, or indifference as the political rulers of the day, judged people for suffering instead of healing them, and being happy for their new way of life (see Luke 11:42; Matt. 23:23, 25; Rom. 12:15).
We redeem the times from evil (see Eph. 5:16). People count on a peaceable transition so that we can heal. We pray for our leaders instead of deride them, and we begin to rekey our tone, to trust that empathy and love are powerful enough to change our course. We take turns. We share the care. We lead at the local level in whatever way we can with our spiritual gifts to serve in love.
If we're too loud with our mouth, our typing on social media, or our ears from the news, if we spread disinformation instead of seeking truth, then it's beyond time to put that energy into a positive work of head, heart, and hands. "Perfect love casts out fear because fear comes from judgment" (1 John 4:18-19). Gratitude can produce gentle leadership (Phil. 4:4-8). We learn to trust gentle leadership.
We give thanks for lessons learned in this dire season. We seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and we lead in that way (see Isa. 11:6; Matt. 6:33). We ground what we do in the Scriptures, and mire that mantle not with ideology or politic, wealth or creed, but with compassionate service at the local levels of our concerns, discipleship, and spiritual disciplines. Such faith-in-action teaches us discernment for who and what matters in life.
A heritage theology can return us to our roots, and give the heart and courage to prune or uproot what no longer serves.
Faith-in-action proves love. Jesus prayed for unity of the church as its safeguard from evil the night he was betrayed, which models for us an amazing and conciliatory response in his dire hour (John 17). We trust God to judge justly (1 Peter 2:23). Divisions prove the genuine among us to worship God in spirit and truth, to call out to God with others who do so with "pure and loving hearts" (2 Tim. 2:22; John 4:24). We reach out to dialogue and unify over our shared mission to love, to serve with our spiritual gifts, and to make disciples (Eph. 4; John 13:35; Matt. 28).
Fellowship and unity need solidarity. Solidarity needs us to "rejoice in the Lord always... to let our gentleness "be evident to all" because we "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Phil. 4:4-8; Rom. 12:15). We fellowship with "the Lord [who] is near" when we care for each other this way (see Phil. 4:5).
We validate the stories that people tell us about the difficulties or joys in their lives. We resist the temptation to blame them as the error of the friends of Job, or cast off our mantle of fellowship by expecting someone else, an ideology, or ruler, to do the work for us. We no longer concede that an evil method justifies a noble goal.
We trust that God's methods of peaceable and loving leadership in truth best serves. We pray it goes well with our city so that it goes well with us (see 3 John 1:2). We no longer need to compartmentalize faith and every other sector, and we integrate faith by living a vocational life (see 1 Tim. 4:14-16). We replace stances and positions with compassionate service.
We take responsibility for each other to bear each other's burdens "to fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). This royal law of love governs us, and invites us to rise above divisions of wealth, creed, politic, and many others that this world hangs phobia on (see Jms. 2:8-5). We do all unto the Lord, not to appease people (Col. 3:23-24).
As the holidays and democratic transition coincide, remember the herald's cry of "peace on earth goodwill towards all" (Luke 1-2). We heal whatever wounds or sin pre-disposed us to be pulled this far away from the cornerstone of our faith. We worship Jesus, and love neighbor. All neighbors. If we can't reclaim unity of solidarity, heritage, forgiveness, and love as a church or in our families, then we're truly lost. The good news is that Jesus left the 99 to find the one (John 10:1-21; Luke 15:3-7; Matt. 18:12-14).
Now is the time for the church to reclaim its mantle and ministry.
We hold out hope for a better world to come, and we build for that world in that way of life and service now (see 1 Cor. 1; Ezra 1:1-6:22; John 13:15; Matt. 6:10, 23:23; Neh. 2:11-20; Titus 2:13). This work includes reclaiming our together story, and helping each other to heal.
Healing arrives as the best task and super mission of transition management. I often encourage leaders and groups at the local level to organize by embedding their passion and vision for what ideal they want to achieve into their campaign strategy or organizational culture. Doing so dovetails into everyday practice as teams collaborate around their shared vision. A healing mission sets us up to succeed with our everyday work.
Kingdom come promises a vision of comfort and healing. Jesus as eternal empathetic high priest means that he governs the priesthood to reconcile us with God at peace with God and each other, through his compassionate and powerful work on the cross and resurrection (see 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:19-20; Eph. 4:3-6; Heb. 4:15, 12:14; Rom. 14:19).
Jesus befriended, ministered to, included, invited, healed, and resurrected those whom the religious and political orders of his day ostracized. Much to the disdain or indifference of said religious and political orders (see Luke 22:70, 23:3; Matt. 23:23). We minister to those who've suffered in this season, whether from pandemic, violence against women, children, Black, Brown, Native peoples of color, and from the persistent strife, among others. These wear at a person because they echo chamber a spirit of fear. Healing reclaims love to make all else complete in our lives (see 1 John 4:18-19).
Love becomes the method to cross safely over fear. Fear broadcasts phobia, or the threat to ostracize those who dissent, and often by simply existing. We recognize the ministry of Jesus to slay fear, and not people, with perfect love, to bless peacemakers, and to let the children come (see Matt. 19:14).
We exchange ideology, zeal, and rancor with a salve of grace to heal (see Heb. 12:15; Rom. 6:15-23). We acknowledge there's a wound, and we learn to validate the suffering of others even as we're at different junctures in the learning. We wrestle with the tension of how to be united when we've suffered from injustice or argued about how to accomplish our convictions.
We rekey the tone to what needs to be done to safely passage together. We take on a posture of repentance to "confess your sins to each other to be healed" instead of concealing sin, we expose it with light, and not to shame, but to diagnose and correct, because we expect that with God and each other there will be mercy (1 John 1:1; Eph. 5:13; Jms. 5:16; Prov. 28:13). We commit to making right and repairing wrongs because we love each other, we care, and we regret how far we've gone from our mission for idols of wealth or ideology for "human souls on ships" (Rev. 18:13). We broaden the vision and mission to take care of a person for a lifespan.
We're open to heal together. We wish each other well under the herald's cry for "Peace on earth, and goodwill towards all people" as a collective healing from God under Christ (see Luke 1-2). We invite the "prodigals," whomever they may be or how they voted in our generations, to come home (see Luke 15:11-32).
This hope upholds our worship, and by this hope, we can reclaim our witness.
We worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The discernment of truth-seeking, the reunion of together, and the action of compassion culminates as acts of worship and identifies us as children of God (Matt. 25). The Beatitudes teach this mercy of opposites in a world where God said to show mercy instead of sacrifice (see Hosea 6:6; Matt. 5, 9:13; Mic. 6:8).
The early church distributed its wealth, they shared caregiving of widows and orphans, these to free each other to worship God, and bear witness to the world that we're disciples of Jesus because of our love (see Acts 1-4; Jms. 1:27).
Without love, truth-telling sounds too loud in the square (see 1 Cor. 13). We need love to protect our knowledge from self-righteousness and favoritism.
Ultimately, we praise God as the king of glory because of his perfect will for a healing of harms and restoring life.
One day, Jesus will return to bring to love forever these tenets of the faith by first raising people. We move urgently to win the goal of God by the work that God gives us to do, both of which has ever been to give us life and love (see 1 Cor. 9:24).
We worship the glory of God to not withdraw love to punish, or threaten people to comply because of fear. We claim, at last, the peace on earth goodwill towards all under the favor of God. Jesus, the eternal King, will enter those "ancient doors" as we celebrate our new home (see 1 Tim. 1:17; Luke 1-2; Psa. 24).
This hope upholds our worship, and by this hope, we can reclaim our witness.
I'm committed to this work of developing a gospel heritage to encourage the church, validate the carers, and advocate for healing change. Will you join me?
Dena Michele Rosko, PhD, MA, CLCM encourages and inspires people to develop cultures of heritage in their ministries, partnerships, and organizations by writing, publishing, and training creative content about heritage theology, formation, and care across multiple genres, by facilitating groups, workshops, and retreats with dialogue and heritage circles, and by consulting and coaching leaders, advocates, carers, and families. The gospel promises a beautiful story of a shared heritage together in Christ that can bless and light the world!