Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Don’t Be There

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I have finally arrived at the last song of Switchfoot’s first album, which by the way was recorded, start to finish, in just three weeks. Pretty impressive for a few young amateur musicians who didn’t know all the boundaries that “professional” music was supposed to have. This last song entitled “Don’t Be There” a poetic piece that was written about a relationship that was changing as they grew apart from each other. The beauty of this song, in my opinion, is the honesty of emotion in the midst of change, pain, and confusion.

Don’t be there
‘Cause I’m on my way

And I’m already gone over
And I’m on my way

And I can’t recall myself
How I went down
Did I get shot
Or shoot myself

I’m down here
And you’re way up there

But that doesn’t hurt badly
But it stings right here

And I won’t pretend there’s
Nothing there
You be around and I’ll be square
Don’t be alarmed if I’m not there
You be around and I’ll be square

If you’re a rose
Then I’m the thorn
That’s in your side

And does it hurt badly
‘Cause it burns right here

I’d like to say hello
I’d like to say I care
I’d like to let you know
That nothing here’s the same with me
Nothing here’s the same

Don’t be around
Don’t be there

Oh the freedom to be able to express emotion and to process pain. This seems to be something in our day and age that is numbed by food, technology, or other forms of busyness. Some people get mad when asked, “How are you feeling?” Many people want to just be left alone, and I can understand that, but there is something that is missed when we are able to grieve and process in loss in community. We all love community, but when it comes to painful personal things, we close up; we resist the purest expression of community. Processing loss and pain out loud allows us to break down barriers in ourselves and others so there is room for one another, and for difference, and discomfort, and growth.

So go ahead, try it. What are you going through that you’ve given yourself freedom to be concealed to those you’re close to? Open up to safe people. Give it a shot. Let others walk with you, maybe even say the wrong thing and offend you. It will only serve to heal you and mature you, as you welcome the joy of community and the power of being weak and vulnerable.

A Path Towards Urban Renewal: Hospitality

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As we are on our way to building a path towards understanding what kind of people we must be for urban renewal to be a reality in our cities, I want to remind us of the two borders that are holding the contents of our trail: peaceableness and justice. These are the foundational elements that help us structure our path so that is isn’t just a bunch of loose gravel being laid down with no purpose or order. Now we can unpack the contents that are helping to make up the rock we are laying to complete our path. The last post we talked about being people of compassion, and today, we are addressing hospitality.

When some of us think of hospitality, the phrase “entertaining angels” comes to mind. Believe it or not, this idiom comes from the Bible. The book entitled Hebrews in the Bible says this in chapter 13, verse 2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Entertaining angles, hospitality, can refer to the practice of treating all guests, whether they’re sojourners, kings, or common folk, as if they were visiting angels.

There is a movie that was made about Dorothy Day in 1996 called “Entertaining Angels.” Day was a Catholic social activist starting in the early 1930’s, and was the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, which began by Day (also a journalist) starting a newspaper called Catholic Worker. In the first issue, it was clear that the Catholic Worker’s chief aim was to get the word out that the Catholic church was there to help those who have suffered the most in the heart of the Great Depression. A famous line from the first issue by Day says this: “…the Catholic Church has a social program… there are men of God who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare.”

This movement has been tagged in a negative way as a “social gospel”, meaning that they were “Christians” wanting to help the suffering without caring for their souls (sharing the gospel with them). I am not going to get into the theology of that argument for now, but I do want to use this analogy to build a case for hospitality.

When people seek to care socially for a stranger who is weak, suffering, poor, hungry, sick, or in some other kind of great need, we ought to be slow to write them off as merely activists with no care for souls. Scripture has many calls for hospitality that has been neglected by a vast majority of “Christians” who are too worried about being labeled a “social Christian.”

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. Galatians 2:10

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:13

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9–10

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:37–40

Entertaining angels, hospitality, is meeting physical needs. When you see a stranger, welcome her in; clothe him, feed her, help them find shelter. Many people take this passage and put their own spin on it, and they say, “I only help those who want help,” or “It is not right helping someone if they are going to take advantage of the system,” or “I will only help them if they’re willing to listen to me preach the gospel to them.”

Let me be clear, the gospel is word ‘and’ deed. I am not advocating for only helping and not sharing, but I am advocating for elevating the deed’s aspects of the gospel. The gospel is never detached from doing justice ‘and’ preaching grace. And if we are to help a stranger, we do not have to try and cram the gospel down their brains, for the gospel is also seen and heard in our deeds.

As far as the concern of giving to those who deserve it, Jesus is clear that we are to give to strangers often, even before we learn if they are “worthy” of our help. This passage from Matthew 25 is clear that it’s the stranger that we are called to be hospitable to, because Christ is present in the un-welcomed alien and the naked stranger.

But still, hospitality is a very controversial endeavor. How far do we go to help the stranger? When does the stranger stop being a stranger and become someone who is known? After the first time you helped them? Second time? What makes a stranger “worthy” of our help? Is there a litmus test to find out? Does giving to someone who is not “worthy” of help make someone a socialist, on the verge of breaking down the Capitalistic structure of our nation? Many Christians don’t agree on what hospitality is, even though Scripture, throughout the old and the new testament is very clear.

I didn’t site any old testament references above, but it is filled with commands for Israel to display the heart and character of God through being especially hospitable to widows, orphans, and aliens. In the new testament, Jesus modeled hospitality to a ragamuffin band of social outcasts, spiritual rejects, and political losers. Jesus showed hospitality to all of us by entering into our vulnerability and suffering. He, a God who knows us, came close to us in our despair, and made Himself knowable, touchable, and shared His resources when we were totally unworthy candidates.

The late Henri Nouwen says that hospitality is welcoming the stranger and allowing him to “lay aside his strangeness and become a friend… That’s what true hospitality is all about, to offer a safe place, where the stranger can become a friend.” Reaching Out, 66.

Hospitality allows one to belong before they believe or behave properly. In our culture we like to flip that around, and demand that someone believes rightly and behaves properly before they can belong with us. This is not God’s idea. When we were strangers and alienated from God, Christ came near and was hospitable to us. Before we believed in Him or behaved properly, He showed us that we belong with Him. God created space for us to belong with Him; that’s divine hospitality, and urban renewal in our cities depends, in part, on the hospitality of city-zens.

We need more Catholic Worker type movements in our cities. We need more Dorothy Day’s willing to be persecuted and called socialists because we are passionate about being hospitable to those suffering, even unworthy sufferers.

 

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Ode to Chin

This song title is apparently written for a friend of theirs when they were younger, named Willis Chin. I’m sure we could speculate much more about this song, the title, and other things we’d never really know unless we sat down with the band. But that’s not the point of some songs, and I think this song fits in that category, of having a deeper and more liberal meaning (liberal meaning generous, not politically liberal). It’s a great song with questions we’d all be better for if we spent time intentionally answering them in our own lives. Here’s the lyrics:

What’s your direction?
Tell me what’s wrong, tell me what’s right
What’s your direction?
Think about somebody else for the night
Life’s more than girls
God’s more than words
You’re more than this
So what’s your direction?
And where are you now?

Grow, grow where you are
Anchor your roots underneath
Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs

What’s your direction?
What matters most?
What should you know?
What’s your direction
All that you’ve been
Makes who you are now
‘Cause I’ve been ashamed
I’ve been a fool
You know I’ve backed down
When I lose direction I pray to be found

Grow, grow where you are
Anchor your roots underneath
Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs

Now some would read this song and question the health of telling someone to “grow where you are,” especially if you are planted in bad soil, or in a place with little sun and water is scarce. Growth won’t happen there. I agree. To me, this song is challenging us to root ourselves. Be known. Don’t close off and isolate yourself. To grow is to be planted and rooted. In a culture where transient people and communities aren’t rare, rooting yourself somewhere is one of the ways we are going to get back to communal life that is restorative and actually makes a difference in a local context. Healthy global change can never happen if we never focus locally. 

Be who you are locally, today. Wrestle out what you believe and what matters most in life. Think critically. Challenge what you do and ask why you do it. Understand what shapes you and how your habits are formed. Culture is not neutral in the sense that it is shaping people and communities all the time. Beliefs and exposed in marketing, grocery shopping, and church going or not. We are always being shaped.

What are you being shaped by? What’s forming your habits and thoughts? Who you running with? Who knows you? Who should know you? Who do you know? The doubts you have…. doubt them and be honest about your doubts. The beliefs you have… believe them and don’t be ashamed of those beliefs. To be a good friend is not to agree about everything. It’s to be who you really are and being honest about that. The best, most intimate friendships are those who are honest with who they are now and the beliefs and doubts they have, even about each other.

Jean Vanier (Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian, humanitarian, author, and founder of L’Arche Communities) has some of the best thoughts on community, belonging, being known, and knowing. “Community is the breaking down of barriers to welcome difference.” Community and Growth, 20. Barriers are built when we are not honest about our doubts and beliefs. Barriers are built when we are not sure of who we are and pretense settles in. Barriers are built when we never plant or root ourselves because we are never able to be truly known.

This is difficult stuff. Stuff I struggle with all the time, but I’m committed to wrestling it out. Believing what I believe about God, the gospel, life, and sin without shame. Doubting elements of truth that have been shaped more by my own interpretation or other people’s interpretation of a truth. Doubting interpretations of truth is not saying there is not truth… but it is embracing that many truths are twisted and construed throughout history, and getting back to the root of many truths takes much doubting and at the end, an embracing of mystery and faith.

So what’s your direction? What matters most to you? What are you willing to die for? Where have you lost your direction? Wherever you are, you can ask to be found, and you will be found.

Street Dwellers

It’s been a while since I’ve consistently walked to my appointments downtown, mostly because of insane heat (wisdom has a way of getting through every now and then). However, today I ignored wisdom, and felt it was time to brave the heat and embrace the sweat. So I walked to the meetings I had today, and, as usual, whenever I slow down and stop the hurry of life, I encounter people and see them through new lenses.

I was walking south on Central just south of McDowell when I encountered a band of street dwellers. They were full of energy and very outgoing.

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As I smiled and nodded a culturally acceptable “hello” to them, the gal in the pony tail (in the back of the picture) said to me, “Hey, what are you carrying that camera around for?”

I told them, “I have a blog and I like to tell stories of people in Phoenix. You guys want a group photo?”

Surprisingly, they all agreed and assembled very quickly for a family photo, and as they did, they said, “You can’t get our beers in the picture though.” They were all sharing two 40’s (that’s slang for 40 ounces of beer) wrapped in a sock, to keep them cool of course.

I said, “That’s alright… just get in there for a group picture. You’re going to be famous.”

Then the tall guy in the Nike shirt, his name is Dallas, said to me, “I’m already famous.” Then he  said, “I’m famous with the man upstairs. He’s the only reason I can wake up every morning and keep living.”

“Alright bro,” I said, and I gave him a high-five and told him to keep looking to Him.

Right at that moment, the light rail horn sounded off, it was coming, and they were in a hurry to leave. Then I said, “You guys look like a great family. Where you guys from?”

Then the same gal who asked why I was carrying around the camera said to me, “We’re homeless. Make sure people know that not all homeless people are bad.” She said it again as she was walking away quickly to catch the light rail. I said, “Will do!” (while I gave her a thumbs up).

Not sure what their lives look like day to day (I have my ideas), but today, the glimpse I got was one of correction that led to compassion.

Correction: Don’t have a single story of street dwellers. The term “homeless” is a bad term. They have a home, it just so happens to be bigger and less convenient than most of ours, and people ought never to be defined as homeless. Home is not always a physical structure.

Compassion: I am praying for street dwellers in a new way today as they navigate the street life, and I wanted to write this blog to allow some of to look at a snapshot of people who live radically different from us and suffer in ways that most of us never do, granted, some of their suffering is self-induced, but not all. We can say that when we stop having single stories of people. Not all street dwellers are bad.

A Path Towards Urban Renewal: Compassion

As we have seen throughout theses posts, no virtue stands on it’s own. Peaceableness and justice are necessary, and even foundational for glimpses of shalom to be seen on this side of redemption, but they imply many unspoken virtues to be seen and lived out. Compassion is one of those virtues that seeps through the cracks of a peaceable and just life, but compassion just might be one of the least desired virtues once it is fully realized.

Most of us hear the word compassion and we are filled with good feelings and thoughts of love and joy by the mention of it. We like to think of ourselves as compassionate people, after all who wouldn’t have compassion on a poor old man who’s body has broken down, a malnourished child, a women who has been sold into sex slavery, or a family on the streets.

The problem we have here is that compassion isn’t the same as having sad feelings for someone’s situation, or thoughts of pity for those who are poor or oppressed. Those thoughts are just that; thoughts of pity. This is not compassion. For many of us, when real opportunities of compassion present themselves, we are too gripped by fear of loss and pain to enter into compassion.

To have compassion means to allow your love to meet someone’s suffering, brokenness. At the root of the word compassion, are two Latin words, pati (with) and cum (to suffer); meaning “to suffer with.” Compassion is when love intentionally moves you into the suffering and brokenness of others. “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts… to be weak with those who are weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless.” Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Nouwen, McNeill, and Morrison, 3-4.

Feelings and thoughts of sadness and pity is not compassion, but they can be the beginnings of us moving into compassion.

This is fully seen and realized in the New Testament account of Jesus’ last week before he was crucified. Many people call the week before the crucifixion, “Passion Week.” We learn in the narrative that Jesus turned his face towards Jerusalem, the very place where he would suffer intentionally, where he would move into our place of sin and brokenness, so that we would receive the fruits of his compassion; forgiveness and reconciliation. Maybe we should call that week, “Compassion Week,” since he suffered for our sake.

Thus, compassion is not a natural human virtue as is sometimes understood to be. If compassion were to be seen as a front and center virtue of the Christ followers life, we might begin to question the fruitfulness of compassion because of the cost it would place on our lives. A society governed by compassion may very well be seen as a foolish and weak society, and indeed, Christ was seen as foolish and weak.

Many people may even say or think to themselves, “Our world will not survive if compassion is a chief virtue.” This thinking would be especially true in a society like ours today, where our greatest ideals are to maximize our satisfaction and limit the amount of loss and pain we experience. We see this is in our business ventures, in start up ministries/churches, in the way we raise our children, and in the laws we legislate.

This is not all bad. In fact, much good comes out of limiting loss and pain, but in the process of longing for a better society, we forget that there is stilling suffering and those who are on the margins that do not have the ability to “regulate” their pain and loss. In our pursuit of our own “right” to happiness, we lost sight of those who have been robbed of theirs. Thus, on this side of redemption, compassion is a necessary and central virtue among God’s people.

We would do well to turn our ears on to the moment Jesus calls us to compassion: You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Luke 6:36, NLT. This, in the context of real compassion, is a daunting call to sacrifice. This is a call to renewal in a society that seeks to protect number one as first priority. This is a call that we ought not to take lightly.

As Jesus has first died to renew our death filled lives, he is now our model and leader (our older brother) in sacrificial living. Salvation for the Christ follower is not merely a cognitive belief that places them in security in the heavenly realms with no earthly commitment to good. Salvation is a call to a whole new way of being human, a call to living out the upside down economy of God’s kingdom on earth, a call to be willing to lose it all for the sake of God’s kingdom being realized and embraced by those who are in darkness.

To the Christ follower, Jesus’ life is not the exception, but the norm. My prayer is that Christ followers would begin to take seriously the implications of the life of Jesus and allow God’s Spirit, who lives in his people, to move them into compassion, not for approval’s sake, but for obedience’s sake. After all, Christ, our savior and leader, learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8), and we are not exempt from this learning method. Renewal of cities is dependent on the compassion of others. No compassion, no true renewal.

“In a poem entitled ‘The Good Samaritan,’ Mark Littleton captures the essence of compassion”:

Compassion.
The stoop of a listening father.
The touch and wink of a passing nurse.
The gnarled fingers of a grandmother steadying a swing.
The clench of a surgeon’s teeth as he begins his cut.
The open hand and pocketbook of a traveling Samaritan.
The dew of heaven on dry lips.
-Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement, Prediger and Walsh, 221.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Life And Love And Why

I haven’t posted a “Weekly” @Switchfoot Song in quite a while, so I realize the title of these posts now are fraudulent to a degree. Offer me the grace to keep the “weekly” part of the title if you will, as I am on a personal journey to unpack the theology/philosophy of Switchfoot’s songs (which are many and will take a while), and the “weekly” part of the title puts pressure on my weird mind to keep working on this.

So today I’m highlighting the song “Life and Love and Why,” which asks many questions about life, it’s purpose and meaning, and is searching for something, not just to live for, but to give one’s whole life for, and even die for:

Life and love and why
Child, adult, then die
All of your hoping
And all of your searching
For what?
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I’m willing to die for

Take away from me
This monstrosity
‘Cause my futile thinking’s
Not gonna solve nothing tonight
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I’m willing to die for

Could it be this
Could this be bliss
Could it be all that
I ever had missed
Could it be true
Can life be new
And can I be used
Can I be used

Give me a reason
For life and for death
A reason for drowning
While I hold my breath
Something to laugh at
A reason to cry
With everyone hopeless
And hoping for something
To hope for
Yeah, with something to hope for

Could it be true
Can life be new
Could it be all that I am
Is in You
Could it be this
Could it be bliss
Can it be You
Can it be You

Some people say these are the questions of the 20 somethings, the idealists who are longing for more than this world has offered them, and will be discontent in life till they find that purpose.

I suppose many middle aged men and women look at this generation and say, “It’s only a matter of time until you realize the American dream is not worth fighting against, so just give in to it now before you’re let down and realize the idealized life of standing courageously for something is a let down.” With all the lost dreams out there and the relentless fight of wanting to die for something, I understand why people would feel that way.

To long for something that you would be willing to die for ends up really bad for most people in the movies, at least if it’s not a cheesy flick. It’s like William Wallace in Braveheart. Everyone wants to be the lover and warrior that he was, but no one wants the outcome of his life. Dying on the execution table having lost his love and the war he was fighting for.

The world we live in does not value lives that give everything up for truth and justice, at least not right away. We all think of the righteous martyr and say, “Wow, she was courageous! I want to be like her, but I really hope I don’t have to in this life.”

Whether we like it or not, we are in a time in history where the courageous men and women are being raised up again in the West, as there has been a season when courageous people were few and far between. The age of comfort and leisurely pleasure is over.

With the rise of social media and the global connectedness we can now have, even though there’s “relative” peace in the West, all of us know that it is not all good throughout the world and our lives of “bliss” are confronted with death, hunger, and grave injustices. We can no longer live in our bubbles and pretend everything’s good. We all belong to one another, I hope we believe that… and the only hope in the world is people not losing hope.

“With everyone hopeless and hoping for something to hope for, yeah, with something to hope for… Could it be true, can life be new, could it be all that I am is in You; could it be this, could it be bliss, can it be You?” The answer to these questions are found in the next song on the album entitled “You.”

“I find peace when I’m confused, I find hope when I’m let down, not in me… me
in You, it’s in You. I hope to lose myself for good. I hope to find it in the end, not in me … me in You.”

This is the hope this world’s longing for. This is the place where confusion is not disorienting, and being let down in the end doesn’t breed hopelessness. This is the place where losing is winning, and death is living. This is the place where the weak are strong, and the poor are rich. It’s the place where if you want to be somebody, you become a servant of all. You can’t lose when you arrive at this place.

I’m talking of course about the place of surrender. Losing one’s life while standing before a bloody cross with Jesus the Christ hanging on it, displaying the greatest act of love, sacrifice, courage, and compassion. It’s not in us, it’s in Jesus. Jesus is the hope in the darkness, and the love for the loveless. It’s in Him, not us. Jesus offers us life for death and makes love something worth dying for.

Because of Jesus, love alone is worth the fight. Love for our enemy is cast in a whole new light. Love for the underdog and the broken sufferer is the new normal. And today, there is an army rising up, learning how to die, resurrecting an old moral. What gives me strength that I’m willing to die for? It’s the hope of life in Christ that offers more.

A Path Towards Urban Renewal: Justice

Renewal. This is a loaded word. It’s a word that could be debated as to what it means for a city or neighborhood. I’m aware that attempting to define what renewal looks like is subjective and will certainly lack many elements that others think should be a part of renewal, especially renewal of the urban core. This is exactly why I am writing a series of posts not on what urban renewal looks like, but on what kind of people we must look like for urban renewal to have a chance to be a reality. This is an argument from virtues (areteology), rather than an argument from duty (deontology) or consequences (teleology).

The last post focused on being peaceable people, which in and of itself, cannot encompass the fullness of shalom (the way things are supposed to be). There is no peace without justice. What is happening in Ferguson, MO is all over the airwaves as well as the ISIS crisis that is killing and and displacing thousands of Christians in Iraq and Syria. There is no peace in these situations because there is no justice. If shalom is the end goal of all of creation (human and non-human creation), peaceableness is the top end and justice is the bottom floor, the foundation; they are book ends if you will.

So what is justice? In the Greek culture, justice most likely referred to the Greek goddess Dike, who would have been the personification of the virtue. This is where the Greek (and biblical) word díkaios would have come from, which means, “to be just, or right.” In the biblical sense, the word justice would imply not only the just execution of the law of goodness, but right living on behalf of those who cry out for justice.

Righteous and justice seem to go hand in hand in the biblical narrative, and they actually could be defined by the term justification. In salvation terms, to be justified, is to be declared righteous before God and having been justly acquitted of one’s sin because Jesus paid for what we deserved (justice).

So justice, in part, means to be free and forgiven of one’s sin, and empowered to do what is right based on the freedom one has received. This is the long and difficult way of saying that justice is that state in which everyone receives what is rightful and appropriate. Since humans are created with certain rights (food, clothing, and opportunities to work), then a society is just when everyone in the society enjoys the goods that everyone has rights to. But a society is also just when there are consequences for those who have disregarded or kept others from these certain rights as well. A city that is just is a city that respects the dignity of every human, especially within the Christian worldview that believes that every human is created in the image of God, the righteous and the wicked.

At the least, in the talk of urban renewal, justice is absent whenever basic needs go unmet. This means that liberation from in-justice and deliverance from oppression are at the very core of justice. If one skimmed the Old Testament to search out who were some of the people whom God had special concern for in view of justice, you would see that it is the most vulnerable of society: widows, orphans, aliens, the homeless and hungry, the hungry and afflicted, etc.

If we followed this theme throughout the Old Testament, it would be hard to ignore the loud and clear message that justice happens when the marginal ones are no longer marginal. And this Old Testament understanding of justice is fully embodied in Jesus, who was very concerned with those who were on the margins of society, those who were vulnerable and exploited by people who had the power.

This can also be teased out to include all who have ever come to Jesus for salvation (the forgiveness of one’s sin and being declared right before God). We are all marginalized because of our sin, cut off from God, but because of God’s mercy and love for us, Jesus became one of us, to once and for deal with the rebellion and tyranny that we created. God brought justice to humanity through Jesus’ bloody and ugly death on a cross.

The one who turns to Jesus for salvation, now stands before a just and holy God only on the merits of Christ’s righteousness that has now been assigned to us through what Jesus did to deal with the injustice of our sin against God. The righteous demands of the law—the legal expression of God’s justice—were satisfied when Christ was put to death and suffered the torment of separation from God, in our place. In simpler terms, it is because the “just” paid for the injustice of the “unjust”, that we can be granted mercy and grace as people on the margins, and be brought near to God (no longer in the margins).

This is justice, which flies in the face of a Western view of justice, which would condemn all of us, if we indeed held ourselves to the standard of justice that we hold others to. Justice doesn’t make sense to a world committed to the three P’s: progress, profit, and pursuit of happiness. When we see injustice happening in our city, it usually means that we will have to miss out on one or all of the three P’s if we’re going to stand against it. There’s no money in it for those who want to plead the case of the widow, feed and clothe the naked, or stand against oppressive systems and structures that abuse and exploit the weak. Actually, downward mobility is to be expected if one is going to give their lives to this kind of justice.

The result of living a life of justice in the biblical sense in our 21st century Western society, most of the time, means that we lose ground on the three P’s of our culture and this is not very attractive, at least not long term. To see renewal happen in cities then, I am convinced that we will need an uprising of men and women who are willing to not be controlled by the three P’s, courageously living as an alternative community in the midst of our over-indulgences and commitments to the bottom line and financial sustainability.

This will not be an easy lot for the pioneers of renewal, but justice has never been an easy virtue to live by. After all, justice on God’s part was very costly. What are you willing to give up to live a life of justice in your city? Is the promise of comfort too seductive for you to make radical changes? Ultimately, justice will always prevail, with or without us, but we do have a choice to be on the “just” side, but it’s not attractive nor easy these days.