This post is longer than normal. It walks you through how to process the Psalms, with Psalm 3 as the example.
Open Psalm 3.
How do you read Psalms? We love the first one: a fruitful tree by the stream. Psalm 2 is more confronting, but we like to read about God’s anointed Son. Then Psalm 3 is about facing enemies. What do you do with that?
If you don’t have enemies, perhaps you skip it and try to find something more joyful? Or perhaps there is someone who’s making your life difficult, so you read on … until you reach verse 7. Are you really supposed to pray, “God smack them in the face and smash their teeth in?”
If you ever end up in court for punching someone, please don’t offer as your defence, “The Bible told me to.”
There is a better way to read the Psalms. They aren’t about “me and God.” You won’t get far if you approach them with the attitude, “What’s in it for me?” You need to ask, “What has this meant for God’s people before me?”
Who is the me in Psalm 3? No, it’s not you, the twenty-first century reader. Who poured out this graphic lament about the enemies arrayed against him? Any ideas?
Continue reading “How to read Psalms”
Border protection is a big deal for both sides of politics in Australia. Stop the boats. Turn back the people-smugglers who put lives at risk with their leaky boats. Block the undesirables who don’t share our values. Don’t let the queue-jumpers in.
For more than a decade, we’ve heard these mantras from our rulers. Their polling assures them that the hard-line approach wins votes.
At times we’ve been shocked to see images of the off-shore detention centres. We wonder if we’re justified to lock people up for years as a deterrent. We’re concerned when they’re reduced to self-harm.
Now, don’t get scared about where this is going. I’m not suggesting we all march on Canberra to demand a change of policy. I’m not writing to Canberra. I’m writing to you, a follower of Jesus. I want you to consider how Jesus sees these issues. Surely that’s what defines how we respond.
Continue reading “Refugees”
What kind of activism are we called to? Confronting the powers of evil, or being the community of a different king?
Christian activists have usually raised a voice for peaceful protest. Fifty years after Martin Luther King called for nonviolent resistance against systemic injustice, we still hear his voice.
Walter Wink called Christians to expose the evil that is endemic in the power systems of this world. He called us to name evil for what it is, to unmask its insidious nature, to engage it through non-violent confrontation. Even in the titles of his books, you can hear him calling the church to stand against corruption: Naming the Powers (1984), Unmasking the Powers (1986), Engaging the Powers (1992), When the Powers Fall (1998), The Powers that Be (1999). A choir of other of voices also call us to non-violent resistance: John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, Shane Claiborne, Jarrod McKenna, and so on.
Are they right? Is power the problem we must address? Is that our task, to stand against the injustice that’s systemic in the way the world is run? To those questions, I want to answer Yes and No. Their diagnosis of the problem is spot on, but their response doesn’t resolve the problem.
Continue reading “Activism: confronting the powers”
Jesus was an activist. But what did he target?
Openly denouncing Pharisees. Eating meals with prostitutes. Overturning the temple. Jesus was disturbingly confronting to the social structures of his day. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild? Not so much. Jesus cannot be tamed. Continue reading “Jesus the activist”
Should Christians be activists?
Good news! Jesus is the Christ. That means he’s chosen by heaven and anointed with power to rule the earth. He is restoring heaven’s government to a world that has been terrorized by competing claims and civil war ever since humans tried to take God’s power into their own hands.
This is good news for the world because it’s how the violent hostilities are replaced by divine peace. Peace can never be achieved through force. The cross is the ultimate paradox for solving violence. The all-powerful God placed himself at the centre of the battle for power, giving himself for his people, reconciling us to himself and to one another.
This is how hostilities end. The cross is God confronting human power claims. It’s how God restores peace, by uniting us under his governance (Ephesians 2:14-17).
What does that mean for earthly kingdoms?
Continue reading “Activism: is it kingdom work?”
If I made the kingdom of God the centre of my thought and activity as Jesus did, where does it lead me? As I began this journey seven years ago, I wondered out loud, “Would seeking the kingdom make me an activist?”
For some, the gospel is personal salvation (John 3:16). For others, the gospel calls for action: caring for the poor, seeking justice the powerless, protecting the environment. What does Jesus’ gospel — the gospel of the kingdom — call us to say or do?
Continue reading “Kingdom work: the last 150 years”
What’s wrong with the world? What must God resolve to establish his kingdom with Jesus as ruler?
Remember the jubilation when World War II ended? Turns out Hitler’s defeat didn’t resolve our problems. SBS is running a documentary titled After Hitler, and episode 2 says:
In the five years that separated the end of the Second World War from the start of the Cold War, the world had hoped for a lasting peace, but instead found itself on the brink of apocalypse. Five years of chaos and hope for the people of a shattered Europe, who became pawns in the games of the major powers.
History keeps repeating. When people rise up against an oppressive ruler, the person who comes to power can turn out to be even more monstrous. How can we ever be delivered? Continue reading “How Jesus overcomes the world’s power problem”