Peaceableness, justice, compassion, hospitality, simplicity, and community. Urban renewal can’t happen without these virtues, but there’s one last virtue that just may be what makes these other virtues stand out in a neighborhood or city. Wisdom. I am not talking about high IQ’s, scholasticism, or technological know-how. Instead, what I mean by wisdom is the ability to discern when and where peace, justice, compassion, hospitality, simplicity, and community are most needed and how to go about modeling these virtues without a patriarchal, paternalistic mindset.
The proverbs teach us that wisdom is a gift from God (Prov. 2:6), and I do agree with that, but I also believe that it’s something that is learned by those who are humble and teachable. Wisdom is also is known in the proverbs as insight, or understanding (Prov. 3:13, 19), and understanding comes when one is willing to listen and learn in a posture of humility, especially when God speaks, for respect and reverence of God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). People who revere God will soon understand justice, compassion, etc.
In the book, Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement, Bouma-Prediger and Walsh state that “wisdom… is the ability to discern compassionate paths of justice and peace” (222). They conclude this because wisdom comes from God, and through wisdom God has created all things, and even worked out redemption for the brokenness of His creation, which as we learned in an earlier post, Jesus is the ultimate picture of compassion and justice wrapped up into one.
It’s God’s wisdom which is referred to as the master workman of creation (Prov. 8:30), and it was this same craftsman that saw the path towards renewal for creation as sacrificial and costly, something only His wisdom could know and understand. It’s God’s wisdom that understands the deep recesses of the human heart and the fragmented realities of the earth. It’s God’s wisdom that can restore bodies and souls, and it’s His wisdom that offers paths back towards God after we have burned all of our supposed bridges.
It is at this starting point that one can begin to possess the ability to be for all of creation in the fullest sense possible. Wisdom is needed to live an alternative life in the midst of a culture that rarely considers healthy limits. Wisdom is needed to stand against habits that have been acceptable to society, but destructive to the earth and humans. Wisdom is needed to navigate right living in the midst of competing philosophies and conflicting interests. It will also be wisdom that holds back unhelpful anger for those who are destructive towards shalom.
What wisdom can do for our generation is to begin teaching our leaders, policy makers, pastors, professors, bosses, and parents, how to think about what’s best not just for today, but for the next seven generations. Considering prosperity for the long-haul, even if we are not going to be immediately benefited by our decisions, is birthed out of wisdom, not folly.
We need more wise stewards of the earth and of people. We need an awakening of wise men and women who critically think through the issues of our day, and live in light of the next seven generations, and begin to live differently today. Wisdom gives us holy imaginations to consider what a city or neighborhood could look like if we took seriously the story we are called to live in; God’s story of redemption and renewal, for humans and for the whole earth.
Dr. Michael Goheen, a missiologist from Vancouver, Canada, whom I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with over the last few years, comprised an unpublished list (from a personal lecture/powerpoint) of what a community of faith could look if it took seriously it’s call to live in light of God’s redemptive and renewal narrative. I find this a fitting way to wrap up this series of posts about urban renewal with an imagination of what kingdom life could look like on earth, as it is in heaven:
It could be…
– a community of self-control and marital fidelity in a world saturated by sex.
– a community of truth (humble, bold, and loving) in world of uncertainty and suspicion.
– a community that knows God’s presence in a secular world.
– a community of generosity and “enough” in world of consumption.
– a community of forgiveness in a world of hatred, competition, violence, grudges, and revenge.
– a community of thankfulness in a world of entitlement.
– a community of God-worship in a world of narcissism.
– a community of sacrificial love in a world of selfishness and self-gratification.
– a community of wisdom in a world of proliferating knowledge and information technology.
– a community of humility in a world of arrogant self-interest.
– a community of patience in a world of immediate gratification.
– a community of compassion in a world numbed by overexposure to violence, tragedy and abuse.
– a community that uses language positively in a world of destructive communication.
– a community of joy in a world dominated by a frantic and hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.
– a community of depth in a culture of superficiality.
– a community of cheerful seriousness in a culture of triviality.
– a community committed to the important issues of our globe in a culture of apathy and indifference.
– a community of selflessness in a culture of self-absorption and entitlement.
– a community of joyful purpose in a culture “amusing ourselves to death.”
– a community of ecological and economic stewardship in a world that has been raped ecologically and economically.