Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Economics of God's Underground Revolution

Dan Z wrote:
Would you mind expounding a bit on how you see the Kingdom (empire) of God interfacing with the world around the sphere of politics perhaps...or in an economic sense.

Okay, now economics:

The majority of economics in the Bible is based on agriculture, and it seems that our modern economic system has little to do with that ancient system. However, Jesus has some economic priciples of the kingdom that offer up an alternative economic system.

First of all, any kingdom community is not to be based on money or possessions. The kingdom does not deny personal property, but each person that joins the kingdom is to surrender their personal use of the property. A new "disciple" or member of the revolutionary community is to surrender their personal use of their money and possessions and either give it away, walk away from it or make it available to all the other members of the community (Mark 10, Luke 12:33; Luke 14:33; Acts 4). This means that the obtaining of any new property is not to be for the individual, but for the community, but neither is it to be determined by the community how the individual is to assist the community, unles the individual gives the resources to the community leaders (Acts 4)

The work of the community is also alternative. The work of the whole community is to build the kingdom of God, which is not to build new buildings necessarily, but to spread the teaching of Jesus, to help the poor and to assist others in living out Jesus' new way of life. This will mean that some of the community work out in the world, while others depend on the generosity of those who obtain financial means or property. (Matthew 10) Those who depend on others are supposed to work with the gospel, giving freely what they have received from Jesus, both of the word and of the Spirit-- both the gospel and healings.

The means of support is completely mystical. It is God who directs the giver, it is God who provides for the worker of the kingdom, it is God who causes economic prosperity to occur. Because of this, among the community, there would be no poor among them, except due to persecutions. But this lack of poverty is dependent on the generosity of the wealthy, who have an obligation from God to make themselves economically equal with those who are poor and working to the best of their ability. Because all resources-- financial and spiritual-- come from God, then God is the one who rightfully directs the use of the resources, and He says to direct it to all needy, especially those among the household of faith. (Matthew 6; Luke 12; Acts 4; Deuteronomy 15; Galatians 6:3-10; I timothy 6)

This economic system also communicates to the world, and so is a means of preaching the gospel. If, in following Jesus' economic plan, the poor are cared for and made productive for the revolutionary community, then they can see it as a true alternative to their broken economic systems.

The Politics of God's Underground Revolution

Dan Z wrote:
Would you mind expounding a bit on how you see the Kingdom (empire) of God interfacing with the world around the sphere of politics perhaps...or in an economic sense.

Ah, now you're asking me to REALLY expound. But I'll try to summarize.

As Jesus recognized, the modern political world, even at its best, is a compromise between God's righteousness and human morality, applied to a society. Jesus never compromised on God's righteousness, but neither did he limit anyone from participating in God's righteousness. So what was his political plan?

First of all, he spoke of the means of obtaining God's righteousness in an individual and God's justice in a society as being repentance. This is a rejection of all compromise of God's righteousness in one's life and community and seeking God's way of purity and love only.

Then, he created a community which would live out this righteousness, justice, love, purity and shalom, and provide an example to the world what true justice would look like if it were lived out in the power of God.

And the community has a responsibility to interact with the world. This interaction, however, is not participation with the world's compromising political system, but prophetic speech. This is a straightforward cause-and-effect speech of the results of the injustices and unrighteousness that the world lives with, as well as support of the areas in which the world follows God's shalom. This speech will often mean rejection by the world or even persecution, but this is the kind of political interaction that Jesus told us to expect. And this acceptance of persecution is the way of the cross that enacts true political change.

The final aspect of political change we enact is through prayer. God is the greatest authority in the universe, and Jesus is at his right hand side. We, then, are lobbyists of the greatest political entity in the universe. We can enact great change for justice through prayer-- and praying the Lord's prayer is one of the greatest political acts of all time. It is prayer that will stop the terrorists-- not by killing them, but by changing their hearts. It is prayer that will save the lives of babies threatened by abortion, not by making it illegal, but by changing the hearts of doctors and women.

Well, I wrote too much on politics here. I'll cover economics in a new submission

Dialogue on the Lost Sheep, Luke 15

This discussion takes place under the topic, "99 +1" on MennoDiscuss:

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.
Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."

So He told them this parable, saying,

"What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

"When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

"And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'

"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.


Is it possible/beneficial to consider a passage in a context outside of its original context?

Jesus never says that we need to confess our sins before the mockers. We need to confess before God and before a brother or sister who is spiritual-- holy and gentle, according to Gal 6.

We can use a passage outside of the context to consider what God is speaking to us. We just can't use it for doctrine.

It is interesting that in the context, this passage is commanding the church to welcome sinners and the outcast into their churches, welcoming them and preparing them for repentance. So why don't we have more homosexuals, drug users, sex workers and alcoholics in our churches?

Steve K

Is it talking of receiving them into the churches or into our homes? The parable seems to me, to be speaking to the home.

Isn't the church is a place for those who are seeking or have found Christ, to worship, to be taught, to be "edified" per Eph 4? The ministry to the needy should be the "outreach". Can a person who is not in Christ really "worship"?

That is not to say that we should keep those folks out of the church, but the church meeting place is primarily for the saints, to prepare them to minister to the sinners, don't you think?

We have often opened our home to those in need, and brought them along with us to church as well, but is the meeting place really supposed to be an evangelistic meeting place?

In the first century, outsiders were welcome into the service, but asked to leave before the communion service, as it was only for the believers."Never be diverted from the truth by what you would like to believe."
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (Jn 8:31,32)

Why should it be an either/or decision? The welcome of the outcast is into our LIVES, not just a segment of it.

I am in agreement with the early believers that the Lord's Supper is only for those who are committed to the Lordship of Jesus, but we can discuss that more later.

But, as you quoted Ephesians 4, the term "edify" means "the building up toward" the telos, or "completion" in the Messiah. Well, different people are in different places in the building up process-- some need some basic repentance, others need deeper repentance.

And if we are going to exclude people from coming to church, then why don't we exclude the gossips, the porn watchers and the materialistic? These are also sins that keep one from God's kingdom, just as well as the ones above. The question is not whether we are sinners, the question is whether we are in the process of repentance.

Honestly, the only reason we would want to keep drug addicts out of church is because the middle class, who unfortunately runs the church, are uncomfortable with the cultural and moral choices of the outcast group. This has always been the case, and Jesus is asking-- nay, demanding-- that we overlook the cultural overlays of the outcast and welcome ANYONE who is repentant, fully forgiving them.

Steve K

What is the Outgrowth of the Kingdom?

Posted under "What Is The Kingdom of God?" in MennoDiscuss:

Given that Jesus is the core of the kingdom of God, what is understood as the outgrowth of that kingdom?

Jesus is the "son of God", which in the first century was a term for Caesar Augustus (as well as the Messiah)
Jesus is the "son of man", to which Jesus refers to Daniel, the emperor of the world, sitting at the right hand of God.
Jesus is the "son of David", which is another term for the messiah.
Jesus is the "christ", which is another term for the messiah, the God-given ruler of God's people, emperor of the Gentiles.
Jesus puts himself as the ruler of the temple (instead of the high priest)
Jesus puts himself as the new lawgiver (instead of Moses)

If Jesus is the "seed" of the kingdom of God, then the outgrowth of that kingdom is a new empire. Jesus planted the church, not to BE that new empire, but to be the seed of it. An underground revolutionary movement, with it's own laws (the law of Christ) its own judges and court (I cor 5-6), its own economy (Acts 4) and its own ruler (Jesus the Lord).

This kingdom is not to be found in its fullness until Jesus returns, but the church is still supposed to be in the world, living out this empire which is to come.

Intentional Poverty, Part 1

Two quotes by those who chose to live in poverty:

“I’m not as serious about intentional poverty as some folks, really. I live in a poor rural area in Alabama. The hardest part is not having family around. But I live in a one bedroom apartment, where I work and live. Sometimes I take in a street friend, if the weather’s particularly bad, but I’m not making supreme sacrifices or anything. I just don’t live the lifestyle that my income insists I should. Or how I could.
“ I just couldn’t do it anymore. I grew up rich—what most people call the ‘middle class’, you know. And I didn’t really think about it much. I mean, about the way we lived. We never called ourselves ‘rich’ because that term was reserved for billionaires or people who were way over our level. The folks who lived in the hills. It wasn’t until I went overseas that I realized just how wrong we were. Sure, when I was in Manila I met a lot of people who socially weren’t that different than how I grew up. They told me how the beggars were all criminals or were oppressed. How it was almost a crime to give to them. I paid attention and avoided the beggars and the trash-pickers. I only visited the shantytown once. I prayed for someone there, but she didn’t speak English. Anyway, I noticed the poor, but didn’t really pay attention to them, you know?
“After months there in the Philippines, I came home. On Christmas Eve. I remember waking up at 4 in the morning on Christmas—still adjusting to the time zone—and walking on the silent streets. How peaceful and serene it was. But by 9am all that serenity was exchanged for greed and mayhem. Paper strewn about everywhere, pupils dilated, gifts enthused over and then immediately forgotten in the excess of the next gift. It was like some kind of drug orgy. And it was all about stuff.
“This opened my eyes to the difference. We really are rich. And we misuse what we have. Christmas is the extreme, but it isn’t the only time. We get what we want when we want it. I just didn’t want to live that way any more. I won’t. Sure, it upsets my family that I won’t spend Christmas with them anymore. And it hurt them when I told them why. But in my life among these people is pure and clean, without the filth of stuff constantly dirtying me.”
-Rose Parker, 28, Alabama, USA

“Honestly, I never had any intention of being poor. I don’t consider poverty to be a holy lifestyle or especially blessed of God. I just know what I have been called to do, and that is to work with the Akulas here in Peru.
“So years ago I began working with them, learning their language. I didn’t live here among the villages all the time. Four days a week, I lived at the mission compound where we lived a life as normal as possible, where we typed out our notes and compared experiences with each other. This went on for years.
“But there was something wrong. The Akulas were always friendly enough and willing to help, but they were also reserved with us in a way they were not with each other. After five years and having enough language to hold reasonable conversations and having begun some translation work, yet relationally there were no breakthroughs. If we were ever going to give the people the gospel, then we would have to relate to them. To be friends, not just co-workers.
“Then I overheard a strange snipet of conversation by two Akula men. They said something about how “that white goes to her evil,” or something like that. I asked my translation helper about their comment, thinking that it might be about me. She shamefacedly told me that almost all the village believed the rumor that I had three husbands back in my mansion, where I had many coloreds as slaves. I was shocked and asked my helper if she believed that and she couldn’t answer me.
“I left the village that day and returned to the compound and wept and prayed and wept again. I was so hurt. Then I realized that it was my own fault. If I was going to work with the Akulas—or really, if anyone is going to do ministry among any people— then I need to live with them, like them, all the time. They need to see who I really am, so they can decide for themselves if what I say is true. But as long as I have a secret, hidden life, then they will never trust me, because they won’t know what I’m doing during that time.
“It took me a few weeks, but I arranged to live with the Akulas all the time. I might take a week away now and then, but really, I’m just more comfortable living with them. Their lives are just so much simpler and without the complications of civilization. I don’t miss the other lifestyle, how I grew up. And my ministry has been so much more effective. I have many friends among the women and the men have welcomed a couple to live in the village as well. There is a church here. And I know it wouldn’t have happened without someone living like them. It happened to be me, but I think it could have been anybody.”
-Edith Sherwood, 67, Brazil

(All quotes and personas are fictional)


A post in Young Anabaptist Radicals:

Future generations always demonize the ethical blinds of the past. It is easy for us to demonize the choices of Columbus or Andrew Jackson, because their culture treated other races as less than human. I am not excusing them, for there were others of their culture who did not accept those cultural blinds, but were able to accept all people as equal. Perhaps Stowe or Wilberforce had their own limitations, and were not as enlightened as, say, Archbishop Tutu or MLK Jr., but without the message and sacrifices of these, the latter would never have had the opportunity to speak.

All I am trying to say is that every age has their own cultural blinders that limit them from, what looks to outsiders, obvious moral choices. The ethical choices are always there, always a possibility, but the zeitgeist of each era causes a fog to appear, and only those who choose to clear the fog from their own minds are able to see it.

It would be easy, and probably profitable, to look back on history to see the zeitgeists of eons past to see how these limitations limit people’s obvious moral choices. What is more difficult is to apply this principle to our own age, to our own lives. What are our own cultural blinders that limit us to obvious moral choices?

In the United States, and probably the West in general, one of the most significant ones is the destructive result of our lifestyles. Because of our lifestyles, millions are impoverished, the resources of the earth are being diminished, governments are being toppled, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are being killed.

The obvious moral choice is to change our lifestyle. To change the way we look at our material wealth. To live in a completely different way, different from those who live around us.

And yet this change is so difficult. Impossible.

I’ve been teaching in my Sunday services about how Jesus requires all of us to be “anawim” in order to obtain God’s utopia. The anawim are the lowly and outcast who are seeking God. Jesus says that in order to be the type of anawim He wants us to be, we need to sacrifice our family and wealth; we need to be ready to be persecuted; we need to practice hospitality to all in need. Jesus demands a lifestyle change if we are going to be His disciples.

Perhaps we can’t do all that is necessary right off the bat. Perhaps we just need to be more bold in order to save our own souls. Perhaps we just need to start somewhere and then start again and again until our lives are in conformity to Jesus’.

So, two questions for us to ponder—what lifestyle choices can we make so as to escape the zeitgeist of materialism and empire? And what other zeitgeists are there that future generations will shake their heads in shame about when they read about us in history books?