gospel as new possibilities, new dangers

[I’ve been fascinated lately by reading Ivan Illich and finding a creative analysis of modern culture that critiques those who wield power on the right and the left]:

I believe that the Incarnation makes possible a surprising and entirely new flowering of love and knowledge. For Christians the Biblical God can now be loved in the flesh. Saint John says that he has sat at table with him, that he has put his head on his shoulder, heard him, touched him, smelled him. And he has said that whoever sees him sees the Father, and that whoever loves another loves him in the person of that other….

The opening of this new horizon is also accompanied by a second danger: institutionalization. There is a temptation to try to manage and, eventually, to legislate this new love, to create an institution that will guarantee it, insure it, and protect it by criminalizing its opposite. So along with this new ability to give freely of oneself has appeared the possibility of exercising an entirely new kind of power, the power of those who organize Christianity and use this vocation to claim their superiority as social institutions.

  • Ivan Illich, The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich as told to David Cayley (2005)

a weak and tender thing

[Wondering about the contemporary relevance of these words by Alan Paton, spoken in 1949 in the context of South African apartheid…]

But one must not imagine that this white settler is motivated solely by fear. He, too, is a human creature. He has not lived upon the earth without being influenced by the great human ideas, notably by the ideas of Christianity. Therefore, he too is a divided creature, torn between his fears  for his own safety and his desire for his own survival on the one hand, and on the other, by those ideas of justice and love which are at the very heart of his religion. We are witnessing today a struggle in the hearts of men, white men, between the claims of justice and of survival, of conscience and of fear.

It is my own belief that the only power which can resist the power of fear is the power of love. It’s a weak thing and a tender thing; men despise and deride it. But I look for the day when in South Africa we shall realise that the only lasting and worthwhile solution of our grave and profound problems lies not in the use of power, but in that understanding and compassion without which human life is an intolerable bondage, condemning us all to an existence of violence, misery and fear.

  • Alan Paton (from a speech quoted by Lewis Gannett in his introduction to Paton’s famous novel, Cry, the Beloved Country)

a paradox on being saved

[another excerpt from Brad Jersak’s A More Christlike God]

Yes, Christ is powerless to save, since he’s been crucified to control and coercion. At his temptation he rejected any use of ‘the right hand of power’ to fulfill his mission.

Yes, Christ is mighty to save, since his love is a power far greater than force: the left-handed scepter of enduring mercy….

Only in terms of the Cross is any adequate response [to human affliction] possible. Only in the cruciform God can we truly affirm that God is Love without denying our own capacity for sin, or closing our eyes to the suffering of the world.

– Brad Jersak, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel(2015)

the self-emptying power of God

[an excerpt from the new book by Brad Jersak who teaches in our ministry program]

What if Jesus’ humility, meekness and servant heart were never a departure from God’s glory and power, but actually define it and demonstrate it? Take your time—read that sentence again. What if kenosis—self-emptying power, self-giving love and radical servant-hood—expresses the very nature of God! What if God does rule and reign, not through imperial power but through kenotic love! What if the first beatitude—“Blessed are the poor (void, empty) in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3)—is a vision of the glory of God lived through Christ! Why? Wherever God, wherever Christ, wherever we risk emptying ourselves of self-will and self-rule to make space for the other, that is where the supernatural kingdom-love of God rules and reigns.

– Brad Jersak, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel(2015)