DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I Believe in Love

Written by: on January 23, 2014

Don’t believe the devil
I don’t believe his book
But the truth is not the same
Without the lies he made up.
Don’t believe in excess
Success is to give
Don’t believe in riches
But you should see where I live.
I, I believe in love.

Don’t believe in cocaine
Got a speedball in my head
I could cut and crack you open
Did you hear what I said?
Don’t believe them when they tell me
There ain’t no cure.
The rich stay healthy
The sick stay poor.
I, I believe in love.

–       U2, God Part II

You Never Know

Apocalypse is perennially upon us.  It seems that humanity has an obsession with the end of the world.  Paul Boyer in his study on the continuous cycles of belief in the end of the world throughout history, When Time Shall Be No More, shows that America has even put a particular spin on the theme.  In 1987, R.E.M. famously sang It’s The End of the World as We Know It with the famous refrain “and I feel fine.”  More recently Wilco sang, “every generation thinks it’s the last, thinks it’s the end of the world.”  All of the fear and talk of apocalypse has a desensitizing effect on us, making us blasé to the times and troubles that swirl around us.  But, as Wilco point out “you never know.”

Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone address the startling human sense of dread and fear (or desensitization and denial) with the current state of the world, in their book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy.  The authors are mostly correct in pointing out the current problems facing our world: financial instability, ecological uncertainty, war, poverty, corruption, etc.  The state of the world is enough to drive most people crazy.  The authors also rightly assert that our world lives in three narratives when facing the immense challenges of sustaining human flourishing: Business as Usual (blissful denial) and The Great Unraveling (paralyzing doom and gloom).  The authors offer a third alternative called The Great Turning, where “what’s catching on is commitment to act for the sake of life on Earth as well as the vision, courage, and solidarity to do so (loc 654).”  Here Macy and Johnstone posit the need for active hope over passive hope, that is “becoming active particpants in bringing about what we hope for (loc 272).”

Macy and Johnstone pose an ambitious and necessary balm to the realities of our world.  And in many senses The Great Turning is already underway.  Just this week The Gates Foundation released a letter showing how much better things have gotten in the world: “By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. You might think that such striking progress would be widely celebrated, but in fact, Melinda and I are struck by how many people think the world is getting worse (http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/) .”  Humans when they set their minds to things, imbued with image of God, and full of common grace, can accomplish great heights.  While, I thoroughly applaud the authors central thesis, their core idea is not nearly radical enough, and while it can bring about very real gains in human flourishing, it cannot sustain them, or bring about the final and ultimate peace and end of fear.

We really do never know.

I Believe in Love

The fundamental  issue with Active Hope is that it fails to come to grips with a realistic anthropology, and what is more, loses site of what can bring about true human transformation and flourishing.  The authors rightly discover that selfishness is a core issue with moving humanity forward.  However, their addressing of the issue is left severely wanting.  For them, the alteration of selfishness to action, is by simply helping people to see that what is good for others, will also be good for them.  Selfishness is not addressed here, just shifted.  This is fairly limp.  What is to keep a billion Chinese from seeing that their selfishness and wellbeing is best preserved by the violent eradication of their biggest competitors to resources?  What is to keep the common good from simply becoming the new tyranny?   Jesus and the Gospels are clear, what really changes the world is radical self-giving love, which sacrificially gives and gives, with no expectation of return.  Miroslav Volf, MLK, and Mother Teresa are examples of those who have rightly shown the transformative power of this type of love.  Only this kind of love, located in the cross, can melt a selfish heart, and bring about healing for the enemy, the abuser, the greedy, the sick, the powerful, the poor, and the abused.

U2 understand the contrasts of human heart.  In their song God Part II, a response to John Lennon’s atheist hymn God, the lyrics deal with the fight of the human soul, between wanting to do what is right, but being gripped by sin and selfishness, and ultimate defeat.  They find that world transformation will only come through the power of God’s love to transform real evil and selfishness into active hope in “kicking the darkness till it bleeds daylight.”  Love that covers over and forgives our errors and failings, yet beckons active participation in extending the same radical love to all human beings.

Christians should be out in front leading on these issues, the gospels demand it.  And in many ways, throughout history serious followers of Jesus have been on the forefront of abolition (the Southern Christian defense of slavery is a sad aberration), poverty, equality, health, education, and more recently the global fight against AIDS, but most importantly the eradication of selfishness for agape love and grace.  U2 in their song Stand Up Comedy call believers to action:

Out from under your beds
C’mon ye people
Stand up for your love
Love love love love love…
God is love
And love is evolution’s very best day

It is here in the power of the love flowing from the cross that we can join God in the redemption of his world, into the ultimate comedy, where time shall be no more, only joy and laughter.

About the Author

Garrick Roegner

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