Over the last few days I have been reading a number of books that talk about “the real message of Jesus”. One book that really challenged me is Danielle Speakman’s Nothing But a Thief. The author spent time working with street children in Peru with Word Made Flesh and she wrote the book “to give them a voice, and in so doing to bring them the justice and the love all humans deserve to receive.” I was particularly impacted by her reflection on the real world.
It is for certain that the “real world” isn’t quite like the way we picture it in American suburbia. Funny how since I came home from Peru, many people have said things to me like: “Well how has it been, adjusting back to real life?”…. When I’m told something like that, I feel a little turned around about what the real world really is. … We in suburban North America live in a bubble far different from our neighbors to the south … the street boy growing up parentless in the city of Lima defines that place as his reality… Experiencing another person’s real world forces redefinition,.. it forces us to admit that the real world is a mixed world. There are both the rich and poor, there are those who always suffer and those who rarely suffer, and there are different kinds of sufferings…
A mixed world requires us to deal with connections. How do the rich connect to the poor? How does my life affect their lives? How does my real world interact with theirs? How then shall I live?”
The other book that I enjoyed getting into this week was Ron Martoia’s Static in which he reflects on ways in which we turn people off from the real message of Jesus. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on Redrawing the Lines, in which he asks “What if the kingdom of heaven is essentially about the restoration of things to the way God intended them to be?” … “What if the coming of Jesus was the arrival of God’s future into the present?”
Such important questions for us to think about – particularly in light of the fact that half of the world’s population lives in a reality in which there is not enough food, there is not enough shelter and in which they are unlikely to live out the the life span that we think of as normal.
What does the reality of the kingdom of God look like? For me it looks like God’s shalom world in which all of us are once more restored to our full potential. It is a world in which we are once more in perfect relationship with God, with each other and with God’s good creation. It is a world in which justice has come for the poor, the hungry are fed and the oppressed are set free.
The wonderful thing as Ron Martoia suggests is that we all have the opportunity to enter into that world now. Every time we reach out in love and compassion, every time we heal the sick and feed the hungry, we bring a glimpse of God’s shalom world into being and we enter into the hope of that longed for future time in which Christ returns and all that God has created is indeed made whole.
We are not called to be isolated individuals who are concerned only for our won fulfillment. We are called to be part of God’s great family, caring for each other and for God’s creation and living into that world of health and wholeness that God promises.