Everything Must Change 9

Everything Must Change 9 October 19, 2007

McLaren’s 22d chp in Everything Must Change is called “Joining Warriors Anonymous.” It is about Jesus’ strategy for dealing with violence and our security crisis.

McLaren relies quite often on Chris Hedges, War is a Force that Gives us Meaning, a book I have not read. If any of you have blogged about this book, let us know. Hedge is a war journalist. But, the chp is about how Jesus faced the issues we face.
1. Jesus taught his followers to crave for “justice” — and he quotes the Beatitudes here. He thinks “justice” is a better translation than “righteousness” since the latter tends to be individual piety. The word is bigger than that he says.
Question I have here: What is justice? What does McLaren understand by the word “justice”? (I see no clear definition, but I may have missed it.)
2. Jesus calls us to “life” or “eternal life” or “life in the kingdom” instead of a boring life in mundane peace …
By calling us to avoid dehumanizing in our language, by pursuing reconciliation, by love, by working at neighborliness (Matt 5:21-26, 43-48). Jesus, in his world, pursued a way different than Rome, than the Zealots, than the Pharisees and the way of the Essenes — he pursued peacemaking by reconciliation and loving your neighbor as yourself.
He puts it like this: “So, we choose the former [way of peaceful reconciliation], in the confidence that a voluntary change in our behavior will precipitate an unexpected change in their behavior” (189-190).
I call this approach to life a preemptive strike of grace in hope and faith to end enmity.

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  • I’m currently the Hedges book, as well as McLaren’s newest. Hedges work is very compelling, because, as you have stated he has witness some of the horros of war. He speaks to what he call “thy myth of war” and the rallying of a culture around the event of war which then destroys that culture from the inside. I’m not finished with it yet, but it is very, very intresting.

  • Just realized I should’ve proofread the above comment.

  • Chapter 22 starts with an important observation, I think. The addictive nature of war and the dark craving of human beings for violence. Jesus, Brian argues, teaches about a craving for justice instead and envisions a people dedicated to peacemaking.

  • “I call this approach to life a preemptive strike of grace in hope and faith to end enmity.”
    beautiful Scot.

  • I like where Brian is trying to go, overall. I’m afraid sometimes that he seems willing to let go of basics in the story and the message. But this summary on this chapter is a reason why I think what he’s grappling with is important and powerful for us as Jesus followers, with reference to truth in Jesus that we’ve largely missed.

  • I also realize that my take on Brian is too piecemeal. I see him without question as a true Christian just trying to see better how we’re to live out the faith in this world.

  • Rick

    He brings up some interesting thoughts.
    I think the justice/righteousness wording may be somewhat key to this discussion, since he pinning quite a bit on his understanding of the Greek. The fact that his understanding of what “justice” may not be clearly spelled out in the book does not necessarily help his case.
    It may just be me, but “justice” seems to be purely a social term. “Righteousness”, on the other hand, seems to be the bigger word since the advancement of “justice” would be one product (of many) from true righteousness. As RJS mentioned in an earlier post, there needs to be “soul-deep” transformation for all this to really take place. I think “righteousness” better reflects that.
    However, as I said, it may just be me.

  • In my context “righteousness” seems to have more of an individual context, whereas “justice” seems to have more of a social and global context – this may not be everyone. But I think that this is what Brian is getting at, and if that’s so I’m in agreeance with him. Though, I think that this is a both-and kind of thing – personal righteousness does not take away from the social justice side of the gospel, or vice versa. If anything they complement one another. After reading the book, I think that Brian would agree.

  • Bill Van Loon

    I will probably end up reading this book. But here is a problem I am having not with McLaren or anybody.
    It’s the term “justice”. Am I alone or is this word being thrown around in dozens of contexts and does it mean something different in each context? I am almost at the point of shutting it off. Too bad if that bothers you. Are we using the word too much that it is becoming meaningless or am I just a dolt who can’t follow the conversation?
    Just venting. Can you tell I’m frustrated?
    But this book interests me primarily due to Scot’s commentary.

  • tim atwater

    See also the discussion of biblical justice from the Greg Boyd posting a few days ago (that discussion still rolling)…
    One of my Korean housemates in seminary once said, “in Korean we can say me or we — and it means the same thing”
    — and maybe in the biblical vernacular usage its similar? at least there is less distance (i think) between the individual and the community/collective…
    (the microeconomics and the macroeconomics of the gospel are all part of the one whole)…

  • tim atwater

    On war I think there are two Christian positions that are arguably ok, based on scripture and NT tradition — pacifism and just war theory.
    As the Catholic Bishops have documented pretty well in a now decades old encyclical on nuclear war — any war involving super powers needs to meet just war theory on an even stricter basis. They conclude (if i remember right) that probably no war nowdays can meet the classic just war theory…
    I think our (church) value-added in discussion of war is mostly in getting down to root issues — James 4 — what causes wars/fightings/conflicts/disputes among you? Whether its a family feud, a church fight, a civil or uncivil war or an intergalactic war — in the real world, trust the word of God — it will really be about money, and the power, influence and domination lusts that go with money….

  • T

    I’m with Jerrod (4), this is well said, and good substance:
    “I call this approach to life a preemptive strike of grace in hope and faith to end enmity.”
    I often ask my class if we were Jesus’ friends or enemies when he began loving us, giving to us. How did he change that?
    I like this too: “So, we choose the former [way of peaceful reconciliation], in the confidence that a voluntary change in our behavior will precipitate an unexpected change in their behavior.” This is what it means to “hope all things” and to “overcome evil with good.”
    In the midst of all the discussion these posts have generated about the wisdom and effectiveness of giving to those that violate us (on a micro or macro scale), I would say confidently that the power of this “way” of defeating evil that Brian highlights here, that Jesus both modeled and taught, is, at a minimum, greatly underestimated even among those whose conversion (repentance) is a direct result of its practice. We trust the evil that’s in the world more than the “good” within us and that’s pursuing “them.” Our conduct (our lawsuits, our wars, our prison system) shows more faith in the sword than in agape for actually defeating evil.
    Similarly, while the law of “eye for an eye” or similar lawful violence can be “just”, its tendency to multiply more and more fear, hate and violence is grossly underestimated. Jesus knew this. Even though it is true that government has been given “the sword”, we grossly overestimate its power and effectiveness to bring about goodness within “takers” both at home and abroad. If we only or even primarily practiced this kind of “justice” with our own children, they would be crushed and/or deepen their rebellion against us. Unilateral agape must be the central rule of parental conduct for the child to learn to trust that “way”. While physical discipline will be necessary at times, it is not and cannot be the center of the relationship. We should follow God’s example: the power and even the right to kill or physically harm ought never be routinely or quickly or even painlessly used. A mature person with power and rights might even take upon themselves the violence or harm that is due their “enemy”, if love is the main motivation for any action, which it ought to be. We need this at the micro and macro levels of relationship.
    But “eye for an eye” is easier, for parents, for neighbors, for legistatures, for judges, for communities, for nations. And we want some of the flesh of those that harm or threaten us, anyway. We believe in it; we like it; but we don’t appreciate its exponential relational costs, and we too easily pass on the wisdom of our Lord.

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  • Sean LeRoy

    I’ve been perusing the posts and comments over the weeks, here…and…I’m honestly on the fence as to whether or not I’ll buy and read the book. Can someone persuade one way or the other? =) BTW – for those yeah-sayers, money’s tight – so give me your best shot!!! =)

  • “I call this approach to life a preemptive strike of grace in hope and faith to end enmity.”
    I love this line.
    Still, (in myself appointed duty of Devil’s advocate) McLaren paints a picture of escalating violence and destruction through the American war machine. If you’ve read ahead you’ll know that he argues that growing inequity between rich and poor is leading to more antagonism. Well, from the London Telegraph we read Peace is spreading: the troubling thing is, we don’t really know why:
    “According to the University of Maryland’s Centre for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), “global warfare has decreased by over 60 per cent since peaking in the mid-1980s, falling… to its lowest level since the late 1950s”. In the past three years alone, 11 wars have ended, in countries ranging from Indonesia and Sri Lanka in Asia, to Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Angola and Liberia in sub-Saharan Africa.
    The two most striking features of war in our time have been, first, the decline of traditional inter-state warfare and, second, the rise and fall of civil war. Since the end of the Cold War there have been just a handful wars between separate states, and most of these were of very short duration: Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent war to liberate it; the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the various American-led interventions to topple “rogue regimes” in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
    Far more common in recent decades have been civil wars; the number of these steadily rose from the early 1960s to reach a bloody peak in the early 1990s. Amazingly, over one third of all the world’s countries were affected by civil war at some point in the aftermath of the Cold War. But in the past 10 years there has been a sharp decline in the amount of internal strife. Only eight “societal wars” are still listed by CIDCM as “ongoing”.”
    Where is the evidence of escalating militarism?
    A few years ago there was an author who made the observation that know to countries that had McDonald’s had gone to war with each other (although I think Iraq may have changed that.) McDonald’s was the authors symbol for being integrated in the world economy. One of the deterrants to war
    A few years ago there was an author who made the observation that know to countries that had McDonald’s had gone to war with each other (although I think Iraq may have changed that.) McDonald’s was the author’s symbol for being integrated in the world economy. A big deterrent to war is when one nation sees its well-being integrally tied up with another nation it might be in tension with. As people become more prosperous they become less likely to risk all for civil war. I suspect that far from promoting violence, worldwide integration of markets is suppressing it.

  • MattR

    Brian spoke last Sunday at my church.
    The local Reader did a write up:
    I have not finshed the book yet, so I don’t know if he tells this story. On Sunday he described the difference between ‘compassion’ and ‘justice’ (focusing on Micah 6:8)…
    You walk by a river and see a hand reaching out, someone is drowning in a river. So you form a human chain, and rescue that person. That is compassion.
    But then you notice another hand, and then another, and then another… the river is full of people drowning. Justice means going upriver to see who keeps throwing people in, and trying to stop it!
    I think this gets at the ‘bigness,’ and social nature of what Brian is calling ‘justice.’

  • #16 Matt R
    Ron Sider used to tell a similar story about a village that at the base of a mountain. Travelers would travel the road down to the village and occasionally take a difficult turn to fast and go over the edge. The village was filled with compassionate people and the developed the best ambulance service ever. But it never occurred to anyone to put up a guard rail and signs.
    It still begs the question of what to do about the drowning folks or what type of guardrail to construct.

  • MattR

    Michael #17 …Or even how to educate drivers in safer driving methods!

  • cas

    Maybe you can do what I just did, buy it used. Or, just follow the discussion for a while longer and then decide.

  • cas

    well, I didn’t actually buy this book, but one being discussed on another thread.

  • Matt R #18
    Good point! 🙂

  • Rob O

    T #12, that’s good stuff: “We trust the evil that’s in the world more than the “good” within us and that’s pursuing “them.” Our conduct (our lawsuits, our wars, our prison system) shows more faith in the sword than in agape for actually defeating evil.”
    I like that Jesus pursued this way in THIS world, in the now. It’s not just that some day peacemaking and loving your neighbor may be relevant because Christ will then rule and the risk of love will be secure. But Christ rules now, his way of suffering love is vindicated already, and therefore it is relevant now to life in the world. We should not be dissuaded from this simply because it is not seen without the eyes of faith. If we trust in the God who brings life from the dead, then this risk is secure now, already. T, I’m with you – what we’re saying is not any more controversial or outlandish than simply faith in God.

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  • Sage H.

    T & Rob O #22
    Amen to that. Simply a life of faith- now.

  • Brad Cooper

    Overall some great discussion. I love a lot of what I’ve been reading in the previous 24 posts.
    I do have 2 concerns:
    1) I’m hearing an expectation of results from loving your enemies.
    I have found out from over 25 years of teaching and seeking to live out the Sermon on the Mount that no such results are guaranteed. If you give to everyone who asks you and do not expect it back, you more often than not will not get it back. In fact, the more they realize that you are willing to give the more they may ask. They may only continue to be ungrateful. Certainly you will sometimes see people change as a result, but it is not guaranteed; and if it is results that motivate you, you will find it to be highly ineffective.
    Such results-oriented actions are not real love anyways. Love always rejoices at such changes, but it is never motivated by it.
    When Jesus lived out this kind of love, he was crucified. And Jesus makes no promise to us of results in loving our enemies–except this one: you will be like your Father in heaven, who loves the “wicked and ungrateful.”
    2) I hear a disparaging of governments doing what God made governments to do: to do good to those who do good and to punish those who do wrong, to “bear the sowrd,” to be “God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). And there are repeated statements in the Torah that such punishments will make wrongdoers afraid to do wrong.
    Well, those are my thoughts….time to head to bed.
    Grace and peace in Jesus Christ.

  • Ann

    I once heard David Powlison of CCEF ( christian counseling and education foundation ) talk about the difference between peacemaking and trucemaking and not to confuse the two.
    True peacemaking is reflective, requires change,humility and can be painful. Ultimately, it requires Jesus’s touch on the situation for permanent change. In conflict I suspect it requires people who will be living epistles to show others the way.