Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Shalom Makers: Development in the Way of Christ – A More Human(e) Way – Part X


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You can check out the outline to connect to the previous sections of this essay. We are in the second section entitled A More Human(e) way.

Freedom as the Politics of Jesus

Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen helps us understand what it means to become all you were created to become, because he doesn’t view poverty in strictly deficit thinking. He sees development as freedom. He says, “Development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or overactivity of repressive states. Despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedom to vast numbers – perhaps even the majority of people (Sen 1999: 3,4).

While Sen defines poverty and development more holistically, according to David Fitch in The Great Giveaway, a significant reason why true justice and freedom are not experienced today is because the church has not practiced redeeming economics and learned how to live as God’s people in but not of capitalism.

Gerhard Lohfink in Jesus and Community reminds us that Jesus sought to gather the people of God together so that as a divine counter-society we might be a light to all people. He traces this idea from Jesus through the early church and makes a convincing case that the good news is not simply pietistic sayings designed for personal contemplation. Rather, Jesus’ intention was to create a new society that, through their life and practices, demonstrates the arrival of the new world of God in Christ where the Spirit of God “dismantles national and social barriers, group interests, castes systems and domination of one sex of the other (Lohfink 1984:93). We are called as the people of God to be the new social order living out the politics of Jesus.

Shane Claiborne helps us see what it means to be born again into a new economic system when he says: It’s important to understand that redistribution comes from community, not before community. Redistribution is not a prescription for community. Redistribution is a description of what happens when people fall in love with each other across class lines. When the Scripture tells the story of the early church in the book of Acts, it does not say that they were of one heart and mind because they sold everything. Rather, they held all in common precisely because they were of one heart and mind, as rich and poor found themselves born again into a family in which some had extra and others were desperately in need. Redistribution was not systematically regimented but flowed naturally out of a love for God and neighbor. I am not a communist, nor am I a capitalist. As Will O’Brien said, ‘When we truly discover love, capitalism will not be possible and Marxism will not be necessary’ (Claiborne 2006:163).

A more human(e) way continues with Pneumatic Empowerment and Transforming the Powers.


3 Responses to Shalom Makers: Development in the Way of Christ – A More Human(e) Way – Part X

  1. Ian says:

    Poverty is not a deficit.

    Interesting thought.

    How then do I invest in creating freedom, instead of simply meeting deficit.

    Thanks for all the work you have put into this.

  2. jrwoodward says:

    Ian,

    You are welcome.

  3. JMorrow says:

    JR,

    I like the Claiborne reference about redistribution coming from community and not vice versa. While I can see instances when an act of material giving my inspire one to take on community, the sharing of resources in the style of the early Church is so much more. Describing the “so much more” is at the heart of Christian paths of development.

    Another concept to chew on, with the talk of distribution where does production or creation come into play? Is there a rhyme or reason to the way in which Christians understand the production of materials, resources and culture that lead to their being distributed?

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