the following blog post is another of our bridges discussion series here at the WayWard follower. the purpose of our bridges series is to generate discussion amongst guest authors and our collective readers — to serve as a forum of elevated dialogue and constructive conversation between groups that may have different perspectives on important issues to the church.
this post in our bridges discussion series comes from janet lynn trevino elizarraraz, with whom i went to moody bible institute – back before i became considered a bit of a heretic by some others at that great institution. you can find more of janet’s writing at The Mennonite.
gospel of relationship.
Most of us have probably heard stories of how a small number of people were able to subdue a whole community or nation… this process of domination has left me puzzled as I consider how to raise children that would NEVER allow themselves to be overtaken in such an inhumane way.
At the beginning of 2012, I attended my first Damascus Road Training in Newton, Kansas where I spent time hearing about and seeing images of colonialism and the long-lasting burden we carry today as a result. This idea that someone from outside of a community would come into one foreign to themselves, analyze and evaluate another’s worth and leave them with a legacy of self-debasement and internal strife is, from an outsider’s perspective, unfathomable.
Yet if I’m honest with myself, when I look at myself in the mirror, I am a result of this cultural violation. As I see this within, I experience on one hand feelings of impotence knowing how to bring healing to myself and those I love that come from this kind of violent legacy – and on the other hand, curiosity on how I’ve benefited from said oppression and perpetuate it in my own life.
I left the evangelical church 7 years for what I hoped would give me a more fuller expression of the gospel in the Mennonite church. I remember asking the first Mennonites I met what the gospel meant to them. Their answers were absolutely confusing coming from a few years before with what 5 years of bible school education had given me.
They simply said, ‘Being a disciple of Jesus,’ and ‘Walking with Jesus.’
I had heard and practiced sharing dozens of times, and even been graded on the memorization of the four spiritual laws :: we are separated by God by our sin, Jesus paid the price to reconcile us to God, we were invited to accept this gift of forgiveness, and then we would be able to live the life of a disciple.
What a perfect and simple message! Right? No… wrong… or should I better say, there’s another way… an empowering, life-giving way to share the gift that God has for us.
I enjoy hearing the podcast Stuff You Should Know, and the crazy topics they choose for education. On one given day, I lie in spiritual horror to learn how cults work.
It was that first step. The first thing that must happen before someone chooses to walk with a community that we may perceive as strange or harmful. What produced confusion in me was how similar it was to how colonialism started and then it
took on the same form that I had learned in my indoctrination of the four spiritual laws.
The first step is to break the person. You tell them the problem… what’s wrong with them and how in and of themselves they have little to no worth. Then after you’ve convinced them of that, you provide the salvific solution to their problem and you create a life for them!
Of course, this strategy works…time has shown us that. But I now confess it is a message I will no longer give. It’s one of the belief systems that now make me tremble with grief that we, as Christians, have used such methods to ‘convert’ others…that Christians have used and continue to use to perpetuate the reign of human terror on others.
How easy it is to villianize and persecute others whom don’t believe exactly as we do. It breaks up families and communities.
But there is another way that that gives a fuller expression of the biblical text… that God has provided to us… a way that my Mennonite brothers and sisters taught me along the way.
Instead of beginning our redemption story at the fall of humanity at the garden of Eden as a way to guide us into understanding who we are… we begin 2 chapters before. We begin with the story of relationship, of intimacy, of connection, a desire to walk with our Creator and to sustain us as they have initiated with us from the beginning. We were created for that!! We were and are called to be in communion with Light and Love that we can’t see. It is this invitation to this relationship that changes us. This is the gospel!
That all are invited… no exceptions and you are just to come. What greater news is there?
Oh… and your sin and depravity?
Yeah… it’s still something you carry into the relationship but the sanctifying power of shed blood and true love promises to take care of it, and the healing power of this cleansing transforms us while we sit at their feet.
what about you? does janet’s interpretation of the gospel resonate with your own?
why or why not?