neighbourly beyond fear

“But perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18)

Micheal Leunig's angles horror

My Mennonite mate and fellow peacemaker Mark Hurst of the AAANZ recently sent me a brilliant sermon that he had given in the US. It spoke to me about how radical being ‘neighbourly’ is in our world today:

“A film crew researching for a telemovie about the September 11 hijackers visited the neighbourhood in Germany where some of the hijackers lived for awhile and planned their attacks. One of the actors, trying to understand these men and trying to get into his role, came to this insight about Western culture:
“Nobody cares who you are, no neighbours say hi. We are not used to this in the Middle East. I often wonder what would have happened if someone had simply welcomed Mohammed Atta [one of the hijackers], said: ‘Hi, here’s a pie I baked earlier. Would you like some?’”

(Adam LeBor, “Meet The Neighbours”, The Weekend Australian, August 20-21, 2005, Inquirer, 22.)”

Later I heard “The Nature of Fear Debate” from the 2007 Australian Science Festival where they talked about terrorism. Fascinating listening in light of Mark’s comments. Reflecting on this a number things came to mind; the men I’ve worked in prison with, the ongoing war in Iraq, my experiences on the streets with people who are homeless, my work with students in conflict transformation, the violence in my own neighbourhood, and in my own heart. The power of Mark’s comments about simple humanising actions we all can do, really struck me. That maybe ‘love for neighbour’ isn’t sentimental but is our best form of ‘self-defence’. And has the power to move us beyond fear.

Josh Hobby, John Dear and Sister TheresaBoth made me think of the Peace Tree Community’s Josh Hobby (pictured left vigiling with our friends John Dear and sister Theresa and below in the Lockridge Community Garden). Josh intervened in a domestic violence situation in our neighbourhood by taking over a cake he had baked. Not rocket science.  But beautiful, brave and simple humanising actions we all can do that witness to the kingdom.

May bakers for a better world, generosity and creativity as a form of descalation and general neighbourliness increase! And may it start with us, with the people next door.

Josh Hobby in the garden

Christian Nonviolence & the next gen

Jarrod McKenna running an EPYC workshopEmpowering Peacemakers

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Jarrod McKenna

Can we separate living the gospel from sharing it? Evangelism from the invitation to follow Jesus?

Last night I arrived back from a country tour with ‘Empowering Peacemakers’ (or EPYC) inviting High School students to forsake lives wasteful consumption and dare lose their themselves in lives of compassion on behalf of Jesus’ message for the poor and the earth.

I’m always amazed (!) at the responses.

Yesterday I was ambushed by students wanting to give me hugs (a bit awkward), ask for Bible’s (not something we offer just something they wanted after exploring Scripture in the workshop!!), committed themselves to the FACE UP TO POVERTY campaign and gave up their lunch time to talk about Jesus, their lives, their concerns about the world and the gospel.

What’s EPYC’s secret that has kids that aren’t Christians queuing up to talk about Jesus after workshops?

-Why is it that young people run up wanting to give hugs and share their stories?

-Why is it that students (who aren’t Christians) ask for copies of the Bible and want to start social justice groups in their schools when many youth pastors have talked to me about difficulties in getting their church youth groups into the Scriptures and moving their focus off themselves!?

-And how is it that EPYC gets asked back into public state schools?

worshopping God's revolution

Some thoughts:

1. The Means is the Message
EPYC believes only way to share ‘Jesus is the Way’ is to do it in ‘the Way of Jesus’. The Early Christians where known as ‘people of the Way’ because they were filled with the Spirit to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:19-20). Their is no point teaching the texture of the kingdom (nonviolence) if you are going to go about it in forceful ways (the ways of the fallen world).

2. The Medium is the Message
EPYC is committed to embodiment. Young people can feel when people really are living an alternative or if they are just talking a good game. ‘Bait and switch’ has nothing on ‘embody and let them ask’ (read 1 Peter 4:15 in the context of verse 8-14 teaching on nonviolence). In sharing personal stories of the empowerment of God’s grace to live as signs of what God has done in Jesus and giving power over to young people to ask questions in the setting of their and our worlds biggest problems

3. The Message is the Message
EPYC believes the gospel is just that… good news! ) EPYC actively resists watering down the gospel, tickling ears, shying away from the demands of discipleship, bending the knee to Principalities and Powers who avoid preaching Christ crucified. In EPYC workshops we trust Scripture has a power beyond our cheap four step summations of the Bible. EPYC don’t hide students from the Bible but openly explores solid exegesis of Biblical texts with students that aren’t Christian trusting that God’s Spirit is at work drawing us to all truth and that Jesus really is good news for all that our world is going through.

4. “History belongs to the Intercessors” (sorry it didn’t start with ‘M’)
EPYC believes, as Walter Wink puts it, “History Belongs to the Intercessors”. We can do solid exegesis and prepare a good workshop but if it hasn’t been covered in solid prayer it isn’t going to have the effects it could have and I’m not going to be in a space where I’m sensitive to what the Spirit is doing.

As Scott McKnight put about EPYC on his blog he resonates deeply with “evangelism programs that invite people to experiment with the way of Christ as a way of coming to Christ.”

After all can we separate living the gospel from sharing it? Evangelism from the invitation to follow Jesus?

Thanks to all those who continue to hold EPYC in prayer.

for more info on EPYC click here

Don’t miss this ‘Peacemaking Crim’

Ciaron O'Reilly with some of us Peace Tree crewOur mate Ciaron O’Reilly is about to rock Melbourne.

“Ciaron O’Reilly is a devout Brisbane-born Christian pacifist. In a life dedicated to protest, he’s been jailed for disarming warplanes, dismantling uranium mining machinery and performing exorcisms of warships. To some he’s an inspiration, to others a criminal.” (Andrew Denton: Enough Rope June 2006)

Ciaron O'ReillyLast year before Ciaron went on trail and before he was on Andrew Denton’s enough rope our Peace Tree crew with EPYC had him out in Perth stirring things up. He didn’t disappoint. Those who have heard me speak will know that because of my faith I often talk of “conflict transformation”. My inspiring mate Ciaron with a smile will often share his take:

“Some Christian’s are into conflict resolution. As a Christian, I’m into conflict escalation”.

If you’re near Melbourne don’t miss this funny, inspiring, intelligent, controversial, internationally renowned ploughshares activist.

Ciaron and ploughshares activists with Desmond Tutu

*7.30pm Friday August  24th.

Brunswick Baptist Church

491 Sydney Rd. Brusnwick

*7.30pm Tuesday August 28th. 

Cornerstone Contact Centre

Cnr. Walker and Plason st. Dandenong

For more info contact my mates John Jensen or Simon Moyle who are doing fantastic stuff in Melbourne.

sharing the love

Jarrod McKenna on International Peace Pilgrimage 2004Hamo from has bravely invited me to hijack his blog occasionally (click here) with provocations of love, questions of grace and rants of a recovering sinner seeking to relate to myself, my neighbour, my enemy and all of creation with the love I’ve experienced in Jesus… needless to say it’s a work in progress. But I’m praying that the waters of God’s healing love that have gushed into the world through Jesus might start to dribble through the broken cracks of my life.

“Be it in a ghetto in America, a slum in Cambodia, the wonder of the outback, the witness and writings of the early church, with those without a home on the streets of London, Paris or Perth, the internal protests of scrubbing pots in a soup kitchen, Jarrod's wheelsthe external sounds of worship sung in front of riot cops, detention centres for the innocent, maximum security prisons with the guilty, in the smile of a child with a intellectual disability, the hand of the elderly, the face of a murderer, the fist of a cop, the reality of my own sin, the feeling of God’s good earth between your toes in the morning, warm tears of a heart longing for real change, warm tea with a neighbour, the joy of a good dumper scavenge, the laughter of local kids learning their skin is not a curse, the sweet sound of earnest praise accompanied only by creation, prayers of an indigenous elder for the drug dealers in our neighbourhood and the other more ordinary ways that God’s love gets at us. Messes with us. And empowers us to live a little more like Jesus, a little more like the world will be when God’s love finally floods all of creation.”

Beauty’s victory

tree of life from weaponsMy beautiful Teresa teaches me so much about prayer, life, nonviolence and following the One who has conquered not with tanks rolling in but with a towel washing feet. The other day I found myself telling my friend Ian Barns that Teresa has taught me that beauty is a sign of the transformation of the world. That beauty is of eschatological importance. Later he sent me this brilliant article from one of my favourite theologians N.T. Wright. (click here)

Teresa working with children in CambodiaThe artwork of Mozambican artists: Cristovao Canhavato (Kester), Hilario Nhatugueja, Fiel dos Santos and Adelino Serafim Maté who take the weapons of war and turn them into parables of healing.

So Teresa (pictured right working with children in Cambodia) has taught me God longs to do with our lives. And with all of creation.

Gandhi “go ye”


Gandhi greeting a little one Wednesday’s with Gandhi:“May it not be that “Go ye unto all the world’ message has been somewhat narrowly interpreted and the spirit of it missed? It will not be denied, I speak from experience, that many of the conversions are only so-called. In some cases, the appeal has gone not to the heart but to the stomach.”

-Speeches and writings of Gandhi: p.336, Feb. 14 1916

In reflection:

Gandhi’s reflections come out of his horrible experience as a child in India seeing people convert to Western ways in ‘Christian drag’ and not to Christ.

  1. Have you too experienced people “Go[ing] Ye…” but not making disciples, that is, students of the nonviolent way of Jesus?

Gandhi 'going ye'2. The biblical passage which Gandhi is referring to is Matthew 28:18-20. In part it reads, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. Is it the ‘mission’ of the God revealed in Jesus if we are not teaching people the practicalities of what Jesus taught? If we teach a theory of atonement and neglect to teach ‘converts’ to live Jesus’ way have we really made disciples? If we don’t teach giving to the needy in secret (instead of calling a press conference), to pray for God’s will of justice,peace and joy to be done (instead of our will or the will of our nation), to seek first God’s transforming presence (instead of careers or our agenda) to first remove the plank from our own eye (instead of judging others) and to love our enemies (instead of bombing them) have we really made followers, students, disciples of Jesus?

3. Gandhi talked about “so-called” converts where the appeal has gone not “to the heart” but “to the stomach.” In your experience do evangelists today who invite people ‘take up their cross’ and follow Jesus in the way of love come what may? Or simply appeal to peoples stomachs?

4. What might it look like to prayerfully seek to embody an alternative to the “so-called conversions”, the “appeals to the stomach” and “go[ing] ye” without calling people to obedience to the ‘royal law’ of Love?

For going deeper:

  • spend time meditating on Matthew 28:18-20 inlight of Matthew 5-7 while praying for a ‘conversion of the heart’

MLK’s conversion to Christ’s limitless love


MLK's officeMartin Luther King Jr. wrote that in studying Gandhi;“My scepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished… prior to reading Gandhi, I had about concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationships… but after reading Gandhi, I saw how mistaken I was.”

Without Gandhi’s influence Dr. King would never have become one of the heros of the practicalites of nonviolence that transformed American’s structural racism. It is my prayer that in teaching about the life of Gandhi, Christians can go through the same conversion experience Martin Luther King Jr. did and not limit God’s love.

Gandhi at the spinning wheelAfter studying Gandhi, Dr. King was no longer willing to limit Jesus’ commandments to love God, self, neighbour and enemy to just ‘individual relationships’. No longer willing to limit God’s love and keep it just a private reality instead of permeating all of life. No longer willing to limit the Lordship of Jesus to merely the heart excluding it from the social, political and economic as well.

Through the life of this Hindu who daily meditated on and practiced the Sermon on the Mount, MLK heard a fresh Jesus say,

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

It is my hope and prayer that not just Christians but the world would come to see that proclaiming Jesus as Lord (our final authority) is only done when we put down our weapons and and love our enemies, feed the hungry, Fritz Eichenberg's peaceable kingdominvite in the refugee, cloth the naked, look after the sick, visit the imprisoned and be prepared not to compromise on what Martin Luther King called “the power of love” as we seek to transform the Powers to serve the humanising purposes of God. Even if it means going the way of the cross, trusting only in resurrection power.

  • So I invite you once a week to join me on a prayerful journey with a thin, bald,toothless, five foot tall, leader who changed the world as we listen to his thoughts and quotes on Jesus and Christianity. “Wednesday’s with Gandhi”.