To the Called Out Ones of Jesus Christ,
To the Called Out Ones of Jesus Christ (and all those who long for a better world),
What do we mean when we say we want to see Yakima “transformed?” Why do we think it needs to be? What would change? Who would be in charge? etc.. And, especially when we add a particularly religious footnote – “as it is in Heaven” – what does that mean? Depending on what you think about Heaven, that might not be very appealing, or at least not a “practical” thought.
I’ll apologize in advance for the length of this letter but there is a certain amount of material that must be covered to deal with this subject adequately, and even then I will only be touching the surface. I hope that you will persevere and read through to the end. And, please, if so led, please give me some feedback.
Recently, I have been challenged to consider how our message is received by those who are not of our faith or who may even be atheists. How would someone who is not a Christian (and even some who are) respond to statements like, “God’s will should be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” or “the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our Lord,” (Rev 11:15) or “the government will be upon His shoulders and of the increase there will be no end,” (Isaiah 9:6) or …
“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” Daniel 2:44
And, some might ask, what business do we have of imposing God’s will, especially as a “government”, or our idea of it, on the rest of our community? Isn’t this the violation of the separation of Church and State that some people are concerned about?
While it might be difficult for most Christians to identify, agree with, or even allow for these concerns, I think we need to be humble and open about them coming from people who are equally thoughtful and care about our community as we do but may not agree, at least on the surface. Because, while some of us might jump up and down in glee at the idea of Jesus being Lord of everything, there are others for whom this is down right scary or offensive.
Sadly, in all honesty and integrity, we must as Christians admit that we do not have an all together stellar record when it comes to blending faith and the power of government. There are all too many bad examples of this throughout history, such as the Spanish Inquisition, which is exactly what some people are concerned about and even afraid of, and I’d say, justifiably so. We certainly don’t have time or space to address the whole issue of separation of Church and State but I think we can and should help answer the question of, what the Kingdom Reign of Jesus Christ would mean, in practical terms, for our community. And, in doing so, hopefully allay some fears and possibly gain some allies, Christian or non.
So, this brings us back to our main question. What do we mean or seek in “transforming” our community and why? Perhaps it would be helpful to first address the issue of why.
I don’t think it takes a lot of discussion to come to agreement about the need for change (transformation). There are obvious problems in our community, too many to innumerate, but just a few would be; the high rate of poverty, gang violence, challenges in the education of our children, homelessness, domestic violence, drug abuse and all of its related issues, and we could go on. No, I don’t think there is really any disagreement about whether things could improve or not.
The question comes down to the answers and solutions offered and who offers them. And, again, here is where there is a lot of suspicion and concern from both “sides” about the other side’s agenda. But, here too, I think we are actually closer than we might think we are. However, in order to bridge the gap, we might need to restate our idea of transformation in ways that actually sound like practical solutions to the needs around us instead of throwing religious jargon out there as our way of dealing with it, even phrases like, “God’s will being done” or “His Kingdom Come.” And this is the intent of this letter, at least as a beginning, to do so. However, there is one more issue that I think we, as Christians, need to address and own up to.
Generally speaking, Christians have been responsible for incredible good in our society and around the world; providing education, medical systems, disaster relief, etc.. The impact over the centuries has been incredibly positive and I would hate to think of a world without the influence of Christians and the Church. And, I hope those on the “other side” would agree with this and, as a result, give us the benefit of the doubt. However, as much as this is true, and in addition to the negative examples of things like the Spanish Inquisition, the Church, especially Protestants, with some notable exceptions, has been, as the saying goes, “so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” For this we must also apologize and change.
For too long, especially over the last few decades, the Church’s emphasis has been getting people “saved” so that they could go to Heaven when they die and, in the process, we have abandoned the world to its own fate, leaving the care of it and “its” people to non-Christians. And, to make it worse, sometimes the motivation being offered to “get saved” is only so that you won’t go to hell. While I believe that there are many truly caring individuals and institutions that have promoted this view and approach with sincere and good intentions, this is a travesty and one that I believe is counter to everything Jesus taught us and who God is in His person. Is this all that He cares about? Has God abandoned the world except to offer a life raft to those who want to jump on in faith for something in the future? There is so much more to faith in Jesus Christ than this and we must change this perception.
I know I’m taking a very big swipe at a huge issue here, but, simply stated, it comes down to our belief in who God is and how well we, as His children (Christians / Kingdom Citizens) represent Him.
While, in all honesty, there are some challenging bible verses that speak of and demonstrate God’s wrath, the vastly overwhelming description of who God is that He is good. And, even beyond that, it says explicitly that God is love. In fact, as we as Christians well know, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son as a sacrificial offering, to help us, so that we wouldn’t perish in our own messed up lives and the world we created. He wasn’t content to write us off and let us die. He loved and still loves us so much that He was willing to change His very existence for our benefit and “salvation.”
When Jesus was here, He showed us who He and the Father were like. He said, “I have come that you might have life and that more abundantly.” Not only did Jesus speak of life more abundantly, He modeled it and helped others to experience it. He healed the sick, raised the dead, befriended the lost and lonely of society, spoke against oppression and injustice, gave hope to the poor, elevated the status of women, and broke down the walls of separation between races, cultures and economic status. And, ultimately, He gave His life so that we could have ours.
Having a different / better picture of who God is will give us a different picture of salvation and what we should be “offering” and pursuing here on earth. Here is one snapshot:
“The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
God is enormously concerned about justice. Over and over again He speaks to such issues as immigration and just wages, etc. (see Isaiah 56:1 and all of 58)
The instructions of the bible, from the Jewish Torah to the New Testament, speak of and promote a good and righteous (just) society. It was Jesus that told us over and over to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and “treat others as you would have them treat you”, the Golden Rule.
Therefore, the impact of the Church – that is to say, all of the Christians in the world should be enormous good because we claim to do as our Leader / Lord told us and, continuing in His activities (His Reign and His Kingdom), we gladly lay our lives down for our brothers and seek to do good to all men, even giving up our own agenda and rights so that others may have better lives, just as Jesus did.
So, imagine a community filled with generous, gracious, gentle people concerned for justice and the well being of every other member of the community (Acts 2 & 4). Imagine a society based on and functioning largely under the precept of the Golden Rule. Consider these few verses from Proverbs 11 (the writings of Solomon) and think about what a society, a city, a valley, a country would be like if we just lived according to these few gems from God:
“When it goes well for good people, the whole town cheers; when it goes badly for bad people, the town celebrates.
When right-living people bless the city, it flourishes;
When you’re kind to others, you help yourself; when you’re cruel to others, you hurt yourself.
The desires of good people lead straight to the best, but wicked ambition ends in angry frustration.
The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.
The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.
A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.
A good life is a fruit-bearing tree; a violent life destroys souls.”
Truly this would be a blessed life and a blessed community to live in. So, what we mean by “transformation” is seeing our City and our Valley filled with good people who seek the good of others creating a society where there is clean water, safe living and working environments, abundant healthy food from our fertile valley, a thriving economy with plenty of opportunity for good, honest work with fair and livable wages, a society without prejudice or malice toward anyone, no premature or violent deaths, and where there is a general atmosphere of hope and well-being.
This is the flourishing (abundant) life that Jesus said He came to give us. And, as His disciples, this is the life we seek to create here and now. “Heaven,” however it will be, may be a future reality but we do not simply wait to go there when we die, we seek to help make real in the here and now. This is what we believe Jesus meant when He taught us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, who is in the Heavens, we glorify your name because of who You are, and we ask that and agree to seek Your will being done here on earth, as it is in Heaven.”
And to all this, we say, ‘Why not us? Why not Yakima?’
To accomplish this will take the dedication and sacrificial giving and living of those who are well acquainted with Jesus and the ways of His Kingdom, experts in their field of work, who will come as servants with strong moral character, commitment, and responsibility, and will step into the dicey waters of societal issues and bring good, just, positive solutions to everyone without regard to their religious profession or life situation so that even those who are not Christians will recognize and agree that it is good for society.
As Christians, and especially Christian leaders, regardless of the field we work in, we are responsible to represent and usher in the Kingdom reign of Christ by manifesting and modeling the reality of the benevolent love of Christ and His imperative to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”
For those of us who know Him, let us be about His business of Transformation. For those of you who don’t, we want to work with you for the greater good. We mean you no harm and do not mean to force on another what he would not choose. We seek the good of our community as you do. We want to honor the good work that people have already done and are doing in the city (i.e., public servants, non-profit leaders, Christian or not; DSHS & government employees, etc.) and come alongside you to achieve even more powerful results. We believe the God we serve is the greatest source of the ideas and has the means to do this, and that He desires to share these resources with all mankind, as He did His own Son. As the bible writer, James, said, “every good and perfect gift comes from the Father in Heaven.” James 1:17
And, our hope, as Christians, in doing so is that others, non-Christians, will, perhaps take another look at the God we represent, who is their God too – though they may not know or acknowledge it, and come to know and love Him as we do.
For the sake of the world and glory of God,
Saturday at the Mission – 8:30am
We are continuing to meet every Saturday in the “Upper Room” above the Dining area in the main building of the Union Gospel Mission, 1300 N. First Street, 98901. We meet from 8:30 – 10:00am.
Please enter at the SE entrance, across from the food pantry. After entering, go forward thru a short entry hall (15′) then turn right to go up the stairs to the Banquet Room. Call or text Dennis Crane if you have questions, (509) 910-7772.
Please invite others to come that share their desire for Transformation in the Yakima Valley.