(comic taken from ASBO Jesus)
This is part of a book blogging project for Scot McKnight‘s book, One.Life. In this blogging project, various contributors will be looking at each chapter of the book as McKnight unfolds his answer to the question, “What is a Christian?” I believe that what McKnight has to say will challenge each of us in different ways on how we view what it means to follow Jesus and how we help children and families understand that. Please interact with what is written here in the comments section below. Also, I encourage you to pick up One.Life and read along with us adding your thoughts and impressions as well.
The review for chapter 5 is submitted by Noel Walker. Noel is a full-time pastor of a small non denominational church in Vineland, Ontario, Canada. He has been married to Julie for 18 years and they are raising four boys. Noel is a confirmed VBS junkie who spreads his time between children’s ministry, pulpit preaching, pastoral care and part time studies at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton Ontario where he is working on a Masters of Divinity. He can be found on Facebook, or Twitter.
Chapter 5: Justice.Life
Scot McKnight drops the hammer in chapter five with a loving, truthful, but devastating rebuke. As he has been saying all along, a Christian is not just someone who has accepted Jesus and then focuses on personal practices of piety. A Christian is a person who follows the way of Jesus Christ. Chapter five takes a walk, and we begin to see where Jesus is going.
McKnight asks us, the readers, whether the kingdom vision at our church has been reduced to an inner experience. Is it summed up with moral development and personal quiet time with God? For those of us in children’s ministry, what is the call our children have been hearing? Are our children being called in the way of Jesus, or are they being encouraged to tell the truth, go to the right parties and stay away from R-rated movies that aren’t about the crucifixion?
“When I hear Christians describe the Christian life as little more than soul development and personal intimacy with God… I have to wonder if Christians even read their Bibles” (p. 60).
In chapter five McKnight introduces us to Tom Davis, a man who embodies God’s broken heart for the poor. Tom had served successfully in youth ministry and later discovered God’s kingdom dream for him when he adopted a little girl from Russia. He discovered the needs in Russia were far greater than he and his wife could satisfy. In his book, Fields of the Fatherless, Tom writes,“when it comes to caring for the people on God’s heart, indifference is a sin” (p. 62). I was wounded by that line. The way of Jesus Christ is the way of justice and it starts right where I am, wherever I see a need!
Why is it that Jesus came to earth after all? McKnight shocks us with the provocative statement that Jesus didn’t come to earth just to die for your sins so you could go to heaven. He quotes Jesus’ first sermon in Luke 4: 16-21 where Jesus says that the Spirit has anointed him to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and finally to declare, “the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is Jesus’ mission statement—a basic introduction to the way of Jesus.
I wish McKnight had time to unpack “the year of the Lord’s favor,” which is a reference to the year of Jubilee written about in Leviticus 25. It is a profound practice legislated by God to break the cycle of poverty in Israel. There is no record of it ever being practiced. Both in Jesus’ time and today, poverty creates prisoners. The way of Jesus declares freedom to those who are trapped in dehumanizing systems of bondage. As those who follow the way of Jesus Christ, our call is not to bring Christ to those who are in bondage to poverty but to meet Christ among the poor; He is already there!
McKnight concludes by saying, “…for now all we have to see is this: Jesus envisions a society marked so deeply by justice that instead of using power to rule over others his kingdom people will use their power to serve one another in a life of sacrifice. Jesus died, in part, to make that kind of kingdom community spring to life” (p. 69).
I don’t know about your ministry context, but I serve a small regional church full of people who love each other very much. We are generous, and we give to good causes. However, we aren’t very familiar with the needs in our community. McKnight says, “The kingdom dream summons you and me to help the orphans and the widows and the marginalized of this world so that… Jesus’ kind of justice might take root. It begins in your local community and spreads out into the global village” (p. 62).
At my church, we support missionaries on four continents, and we see pictures of the orphans that they look after. McKnight’s rebuke leads me to this conclusion: when we don’t use our power and privilege to serve others right where we are, we don’t experience God’s broken heart for the poor. We choose to ignore the words of Jesus, and, even worse, we teach the children that we serve to do the same.
Another fantastic book that deals with justice is Tim Keller’s, Generous Justice:How God’s Grace Makes You Just. In it, Keller makes the compelling point that justice is not an adjunct to Christian life—it is core and central. Our experience of grace demands that we seek justice for those God has aligned himself with.
As Christian ministry professionals, we must ensure that the children we serve have an opportunity to be formed by Biblical instruction and develop friendships and trusting relationships within our church families. Additionally, we must responsibly and carefully break their hearts for the poor. Our children and teens must have the opportunity to enter into solidarity with the poor; not as a project nor as benevolent imperialists but as followers of Jesus Christ.
A friend of mine is living her kingdom dream as a foster parent to children who are in crisis. When a child’s home is no longer safe and provincial authorities are involved, they will come and live with this friend of mine until an adoption is arranged or until the court’s requirements are met. I was explaining to my eleven-year old son why “Benjamin” (not his real name) had come to live with this friend of mine. Benjamin’s parents were not caring for him and he was no longer safe at home. My son could scarcely believe that such a thing was possible. It broke his heart that the physical wounds Benjamin bore were caused by his parents. Together, we made plans to extend a hand in friendship, even if it might not be reciprocated. It broke my son’s heart to see needs like that, but I hope that he will never be the same.
Be sure to check out the rest of this book blogging project:
- March 28 – Chapter 1: One.Life – Doug Olson
- March 29 – Chapter 2: Kingdom.Life – Eli Suddarth
- March 30 – Chapter 3: Imagined.Life – Dan Scott
- March 31 – Chapter 4: Love.Life – Emily Mullens
- April 1 – Chapter 5: Justice.Life – Noel Walker
- April 2 – Chapter 6: Peace.Life – Jesse Smith
- April 3 – Chapter 7: Wisdom.Life – Jared Massey
- April 4 – Chapter 8: Church.Life – Tim Shiels
- April 5 – Chpater 9: Committed.Life – Chris Lema
- April 6 – Chapter 10: Sex.Life – Henry Zonio
- April 7 – Chpater 11: Vocation.Life – Helen Lee
- April 8 – Chapter 12: Eternity.Life – Christiaan VandenHuevel
- April 9 – Chapter 13: God.Is.Love.Life – Henry Zonio
- April 10 – Chapter 14: Cross.Life.Ressurection.Life – Barbara Graves