Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Dustin James on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Dustin’s local city newspaper is the Los Angeles Times. Here is Dustin James on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

One of my favorite comedians, Russell Peters, ethnically Indian and raised in Canada, jokes about how one day 300 years from now there won’t be any racial differences to speak of because we’ll all have beige skin tone anyway. He’s referring to the globalization of our world and the rapid growth and cultural mixing of our cities around the world.

In Los Angeles, I could imagine how it would be possible for that scenario to play out. Currently, it would be nearly impossible to describe the dominant cultural or ethnic group in Los Angeles, and even more illusive to try defining a homegrown Angeleno. But our cultural differences are one of the biggest challenges we face in Los Angeles. The lack of a well-defined, dominant culture leads to a sort of rootless-ness, which might be a cause for the pervasive transience in our city.

Once, some of my Latino friends and I went to eat at an IHOP and I happened to be the only Caucasian. They joked with me that the people eating around us could only be thinking one of two things: 1) I had been kidnapped by them or 2) I was a drug lord and had done something crazy to gain their respect…haha. I was neither of those, only a friend and coworker. However, these unspoken racial boundaries are the cause of much strife in our city. And it leads us to ask how such a large and diverse metropolis of culture and subculture can not only tolerate, but also learn to love one another?

I think most would agree that the prevailing philosophy of daily life in Los Angeles is that of tolerance. A definition of tolerance might go like this, “You believe what you want to about the world, economy, war, politics, and God as long as it does not disrupt my immediate world or my family’s world and we can get along peacefully.” This definition, I believe, is what drives the ideology of most people living in Los Angeles.

Jesus summed up the laws of Moses when he said all that’s necessary is to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength and of equal importance is to love your neighbor as yourself. Practicing tolerance is not loving our neighbors as ourselves. In effect it might be like saying, “Please feel free to make as many poor choices about your life as you would like; work too much, live for money and control at all costs, smoke lots of drugs, have sex with lots of partners, never forgive others that wrong you, hold lots of grudges, and never find peace – just don’t bother me with all of that.”

The Good News in Los Angeles would mean that in a city where many lack authentic community (a network of trustworthy relationships), new relationships would be formed with the living Jesus and one another. The city’s inhabitants would find the strength to take genuine concern for their neighbors by practicing the ways Jesus teaches and thinking like Jesus thinks. Authentic communities would spring up everywhere and in every form imaginable. Gangsters would become students of scripture. Business executives would lavish resources on the poor and marginalized. Entertainers would live with integrity on and off screen. Cultural and racial divides would be mended and differences celebrated. Selfishness would not prevail in any individual, family, group, or organization. People would not be tolerated, but loved instead. This is the Gospel in Los Angeles, practicing daily and sharing the self-giving love that Jesus has placed over us and in us with one and all, which is inclusive of every imaginable culture and sub-culture (even the Angeleno).

Dustin James lives in Los Angeles and serves at Kairos – Hollywood in East Hollywood. He is currently studying at Fuller Theological Seminary to receive a Master of Art in Global Leadership. Dustin enjoys the variety and diversity of Angelenos he meets in Los Angeles, as well as, the good food that travels with them. He’s also a sucker for a warm, tropical beach. His local newspaper is the Los Angeles Times.


8 Responses to Dustin James on The Good News

  1. Dave says:

    Dustin,

    Thanks for your words, man. They were timely and contextual for our situation here in LA – a culture of tolerance (like you said)in which the inclusionary aspects of the Gospel can really be life changing for us given the diversity that surrounds us.

    /dave

  2. Paul says:

    Dustin,

    Too many times we meet people, get to know them for a brief moment and eventually, those relationships inevitably wither away into air. Then there are times when we get lucky and find true sense of community – where friends do love and not just tolerate. This is indeed the story of L.A. But I’m thankful and lucky to have met a great soul in you. Thanks for the awesome words, brotha.

    Paul

  3. jrwoodward says:

    Dustin,

    I appreciate how you connect right at the street level. I also love the picture you paint of the Good News in action here in LA. Thanks for your words.

  4. Sonja says:

    Dustin,
    the way you described LA already seemed like you lived there for many years and how it became a home to you.I like the way how you shaped the future here.Spoken with words of hope and in faith.’Without love we can’t do nothing’ and your passion for the city of LA is touching me deeply.You reminded me of the ‘three musketiers’with your statement ‘once for all’.Great to learn something about tolerance today.It makes so much sense now.thanks

  5. Dustin James says:

    JR, thanks for the chance to be a guest on your blog.

    Paul, I’m glad we can share that community too! And I’ll be thankful to reconnect soon in LA when I get back soon.

    Sonja, yes, I think you nailed it. Without love, we’ve got nothing and achieved nothing. I’m hoping to be able to burn with passion for the things of God and represent the Lord well in LA, just like Jesus did when He walked our earth.

    Dave, thanks!

  6. Sonja says:

    Dustin,
    may this poem bless you on the way:
    artist: Mykul Anjelo

    seeds planted here along eternity’s pathway
    Soaked in tears of testing
    nourished in the soil of toil
    of passion & joy
    Saturated in the purity of sunlight!
    Rise up innumerable
    countless new creations
    Sprouting forth colours untold
    indescribable shapes
    Mesmerizing menagerie of offerings
    to my Maker
    Here in this space
    Sacred place of my soul sending
    out into forever
    to meet me there once again…..
    in completion

  7. peggy guthrie says:

    Hi, Dustin.
    This is a vivid and strong report, full of hope for the future in a place where there are thinkers and doers like you. Makes me think of John 17: 23 – Jesus’ words to the Father: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
    Peggy

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