How Now Shall We Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

How Now Shall We  Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

The American Political Constitution is a masterpiece and should be praised for its democratic and cosmopolitan language. It is one of a kind. However, the relationship between Americans of different racial and ethnic background and the attitude they express toward one another and the foreigner among them is disheartening and betrays the American democratic ideals.

How shall we then proceed to heal our national wound?

How shall we then move forward to learn to live together, accept one another, and love another as Americans?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and each other in this moment of pain, trial, and seemingly great despair.

If I may appeal to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in the sixth chapter,  please allow me to share a few ideas with you.  Although I make a sharp distinction between Christianity and American Nationalism, I would like to offer a Christian perspective on these national issues I noted above. The Christian identity counters the American identity. Nonetheless, I do believe  and maintain that Christians are called by God to actively engage their culture with the message of Christ and be active citizens who must use the Wisdom of God and biblical principles to transform their neighborhood, community, city, and their country–toward peace, love, justice, truth, equality, etc. for the common good–to the glorious praise of the Triune God. Consequently, toward these goals, in this brief post, I would like to bring your attention to three underlying propositions: listening with care and love, doing good to all, and live gently, which may strengthen human relationship, bring collective peace, national healing, and foster racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony. Ultimately, I’m interested in highlighting some basic biblical principles on how to do life together and live gently in these tragic times in the modern world.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“–Micah 6:8

  1. Listening with care and love

In such a national predicament and collective crisis we’re presently undergoing as a people, it is critical for each one of us to listen to each other and try to understand the other individual’s perspective. You will not understand somebody’s hurt and moments of troubles-both in the past and the present–  until you learn to cultivate an attitude to listen and sympathize with that person. You will ruin the possibility to move  forward toward collective progress, goal, and unity should you undermine one’s suffering and point of view.  Do not interrupt! Listen!!!

Listen with care! Listen with patience! Listen responsibly! Listen with understanding! Listen with love! Moments of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation come at the time when we offer ourselves up to each other for the sake of love and unity. As Paul encourages the Christians at Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (6:2). The imperative for social transformation, communal shalom, national healing,  social justice, and radical spiritual renewal is to be relational to all people and to bear one another’s burden.

2. Doing good to all

Secondly, to work toward the common good and human flourishing in our society, it is crucial that we do good to all–with no exception. Doing good to everyone one meets means to be inclusive in one’s generous outreach efforts and activism; it also means that to deliberately extend acts of kindness, compassion, and love to those who cannot give back or do not have the means to return your favor. The ethical aspect of this biblical command and notion of goodness compels us all to forgive and love even those who refuse to love and forgive in return. Doing good to all is an act of justice and a form of loving activism and participation in the life of people or individuals in crisis. It provides a terrific opportunity to the Christian community to condemn social sins and human oppression–the antithesis of good–and to stand in solidarity with those to whom we have called to perform acts of goodness. According to James, the failure to do good and condemn what is unjust (or “not good”) contradicts the Christian ethic and the Jesus Creed: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).  The Christian community is also called to be exemplary models of goodness: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7-9). For  Prophet Micah, goodness includes both social responsibility and spiritual development. The prophet associates good with justice, kindness, and humility.  Doing good is also interpreted as a divine imperative, that is what God requires of his people and the community of faith. Social justice is integral to the spiritual life of God’s people and the Church in the modern age.  When we dissociate Christian discipleship and (or from) the call to justice, it will ultimately lead to a life of obedience and a life that dishonors God.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”–Micah 6:8

Moreover, in Galatians 6, Paul implies that acts of goodness should not be premised on a spirit of  aggressiveness and comparison, but rather should be framed within a  spirit of humility and gratitude. Paul characterizes the Christian life not only as relational living but as a life that pursues the best interest and welfare of others, and the common good. Christian discipleship or the Christian life for Paul is not (and should not be) measured by an attitude of competition and comparison: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (6:4); rather, it is/should be characterized by an attitude of selflessness, sacrificial doing, and  an attitude of  deliberate service and sustaining good : “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:9).  Even in the midst of unwarranted criticism, Christians in contemporary society should not be weary of doing and defending what is just, righteous, loving, and good.  Such attitude toward life and other individuals is a pivotal marker  of an exemplary and Christ-like discipleship.

“So then, we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).

3. Living Gently

Thirdly, the call to do life together and live  gently in this chaotic world and in this  life of uncertainty is not a free pass  nor is it the absence of weakness.  This is a high calling for the Christian to engage the world and culture meaningfully, relationally,  and graciously.  In other for the Christian to foster such an attitude toward culture, life, and the world, his/her life must radically be refined by the Spirit of God and shaped by the wisdom of the community of faith  in Christ Jesus.  Paul comforts us Christians that we should not be despair nor lose hope in these tragic times; for Apostle Paul, the Christian life that produces genuine spiritual transformation and growth is reciprocal, interconnected, and interdependent upon the community’s active collaboration and sustaining support: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (6:1). The christian life is lived in community and with the community of faith. This life of relations is in active solidarity with the community of Christ’s disciples–what we call ekklesia, “the church.” It is also a life in active solidarity with the oppressed, the disinherited, and underprivileged individuals and families. Genuine Christian discipleship means  the courage to follow Jesus Christ, the courage to love, the courage to forgive, and the courage to take upon oneself the suffering and trials of another individual. The cross of discipleship is not only a call to bear the cross of Christ continually; it is also an imperative to bear the cross of both the weak and the strong among us.

Paul’s articulation of these radical ethical principles of the new  community of grace in Christ and in the Spirit of love has tremendous implications for constructing a life characterized by the ethics and art of listening with care and love, doing good to all, and living gently. It is God’s desire for us to do life together, accept one another, and love another. It is only through the moral vision of the Kingdom of God that Christians and the Christian church in the American society and elsewhere could contribute meaningfully and constructively to a life of optimism, collective participation, a spirit of democratic communitarianism and humanitarianism, and a life of  collective solidarity and racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (James 6:10).

 

May we become the Gospel we proclaim!

Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph

President

Hope for Today Outreach

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We Need Your Help Now!

 

Dear HTO Friends and Supporters,

In December 2015, Hope for Today Outreach sent a team (Dr. Celucien Joseph and his wife Katia Joseph, and other partners in Haiti) to the rural area of Corail, Port Margot (Haiti). As we walked through the neighborhoods, handing out small donations to families, we were have witnessed God’s love, grace, and mercy toward the people of Port-Margot. The people were very grateful and thankful for what they received from us. Their words of appreciation made us feel so proud of we have achieved so far at Hope for Today Outreach (HTO). We witnessed their poverty and suffering, and we realized how much we needed to add to our donations food such as rice, beans, and non-perishable food.  And this is the reason why we are writing to you now, to request your help, with either a donation of funds to buy the food for the people or a donation of food (rice, beans, and non-perishable food) to provide for 500 underprivileged and poor families in Port-Margot.

Hope for Today Outreach puts great emphasis on feeding the hungry and the poor, as we believe the biblical imperative to always “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10).  I’m sure you know of how important it is to care for the less fortunate… They are our brothers and sisters after all.  Obviously, we won’t be able to accomplish this task without the assistance of partners and supporters like you; hence, we beseech you to help us by sponsoring HOP or by donating the items needed for our June mission trip to Port-Margot, Haiti.

By sponsoring and helping feeding the poor of Corail, Port Margot, you will be reaching out to many undeserved families, alleviating hunger and poverty in the Region, and making a tremendous difference in the lives of children, young people, and families in such a big way!

For my Christian friends (being a follower of Christ), I’m sure   you will understand the importance of giving to the poor and care for the needy; it is a way to spread the good news and love of Christ, and this is what this ministry’s main goal!  We want to reach out to the people of Port Margot and help them to know the Lord in a personal way, yet through our act of kindness and compassion. Also, by helping us feeding the people of Corail, HTO will be providing a huge service to all the families.

If you would like to sponsor or provide assistance toward this coming mission trip in June, please contact me, Katia Joseph via the telephone (772-985-0696), or via email at customers@hopefortodayoutreach.org. If you would like to send the donations (financial support, rice, beans, and non-perishable food) to us, please send it to the address listed below:

Hope for Today Outreach (HTO)
P.O. Box 7353
Port Saint Lucie, FL 34985

To make a donation through our online service, please click on the PayPal button below:

Donate

HTO is sending a mission team to Port-Margot in June 4, 2016. If you are sending any of these items listed below, please do so by Monday, May 9, 2014 so we the items can be shipped to Haiti on a timely manner before we arrive.

We thank you for the time you have taken to read this letter.

Blessings in Christ,

Katia

 

Jesus, a Man of Color: Rethinking about the Color of the Historical Jesus and His Redemptive Message of Hope and Reconciliation during the Christian Holy Week

Jesus, a Man of Color: Rethinking about the Color of the Historical Jesus and His Redemptive Message of Hope and Reconciliation during the Christian Holy Week

The color of Jesus does matter in the present time because it could help reshape Christian theology and transform Christian churches in the 21st century, and enhance interfaith dialogue between Abrahamaic and non-Abrahamaic religions. Jesus’ skin color bears tremendous implications on how we should now rethink about theology and race, Christianity and the problem of the color line in the modern world, God’s relationship with the poor, the oppressed, and people of color, and how we should treat those who live in the margins of society.

If one believes that religion can be used as a potential tool to enhance the conundrum of race and ethnicity in the modern world, then Jesus’ non-European flesh matters. If one is persuaded that a non-racialized Christianity and Jesus can help improve racial reconciliation and harmony among Christians of different racial and ethnic background, then Jesus’ skin color is extremely important. If one is convinced that Jesus’ dark body matters, it could potentially be used instrumentally to ameliorate ecumenical conversations between people of different religious persuasions on the planet.

Let’s not spiritualize Jesus’ historical human flesh! Let’s not undermine the important fact that Jesus was a historical person, a Palestinian first-century Jew, and a man of color who chose to live among the oppressed, the poor, and the outcast of the Jewish Diaspora. He was not a white male as traditionally depicted in the American and Western media, and taught in religious, seminary, and divinity schools, and theological textbooks. He certainly did not have any European features nor has he any European ancestors. To affirm these truths is to take seriously the practical and sociological dimensions of Christianity and the Christian message.

To spiritualize the historical Jesus merely as a divine being without taking into account of his true humanity is to undermine his true identity as a person of color. To acknowledge Jesus’ true skin color and ethnicity is the first act of decolonizing Christian theology and an important move forward toward a theology of liberation and a decolonial turn in theological anthropology. Finally, to affirm Jesus’ non-European body is to dewesternize Christianity and Christian theology. Critical theological discourse always involves the process of rethinking about what we believe and practice, and why we believe what we confess and do.

Unfortunately, the Westernized Jesus has been used in the past both in the tragic times of slavery and Western colonization as a tool to make people suffer, to humiliate non-European people, and dehumanize the image of God in humanity. The Christian churches in the twenty-first century cannot continue to stay silent about these pivotal issues that have changed the world, transformed the dynamics and human relations between Western and non-Western people, and continue to have a devastating impact on Christian missions, evangelism, and the message of the Gospel in the world. Followers of Christ are repairers of bridges and light of the world.

The Christian message of Easter affirms that God has raised Jesus from the Dead. The Easter story is a message of repentance and reconciliation, hope and resistance, and love and peace. It is also a profound reflection on the humanity and Jesus’ physical body which God has vindicated. The Easter message is also a message of God’s universal love for humanity: men and women, male and female, the homosexual, the lesbian, the transgender, the disable, the orphan, the widow, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, people of all color, people of all ethnic group. Easter speaks loudly about God’s unconditional love for the world and all people!

The Jesus Christians everywhere in the world confess as both Savior and Lord was a real human being who was self-conscious about his own ethnic identity as a person of color of Jewish background. He was also self-conscious about his underrepresented social class in the first-century Jewish Diaspora and Palestine.

The historical Jesus proclaimed a message of reconciliation and love between people of different social classes, of competing religious persuasions, and of individuals of different ethnic identity and background. Through his message of love and acceptance, he was determined to dispel the ideology of ethnic superiority—what we may call in the twenty-first century society racial heritage and racial supremacy. The message of this same Jesus, a person of color who is the Savior and Lord of White, Black, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Native Americans, Latino/a, and male and female Christians, provides meaningful lessons and wisdom to help us rethink critically about our common humanity, can help us break down the high racial, gender, and ethnic walls in contemporary Christianity and churches, and improve the human condition in the world.

Moreover, I believe that there are both creative and strategic ways to diminish the power and influence of structural racism in our society and the modern world. There is nothing “essential” about one’s racial identity, designation, or category; if this logical reasoning is valid or justifiable, then we do not need to wait for the great eschatological moment of the Christ or the future life…to work through our racial conflict or to dismantle the power of structural racism in our society. I believe we can undo race! There are equally important human factors that intersect with human racial identity (or racial identities) and shape the human experience in this world; these things include gender, sexuality, culture, ideological worldviews, economics, even religious and political identification. I would contend further that one of the devastating factors contributing to the conundrum of racism in our culture and the modern world is that we have miserably cultivated a low view of humanity and love. At the moment, our collective view of anthropology and love is defective and “messed up.”

Hence, potentially, a more constructive conversation about race and racism must begin with the fundamental question of what it means to be human and to love one another. We would have to deal honestly and responsibly with the existential dimensions of love, which bears substantial implications on human relations and our shared or common humanity. We can learn from Jesus as a person of color who has modeled for us a positive view of humanity/anthropology by intentionally promoting the dignity of all people including the Jew and the non-Jew (i.e. the Samaritan, for example), male and female, the religious and the non-religious. I would argue that the life of Jesus has provided the most useful resources, and meaningful life lessons and strategic methods to recreate a more inclusive, constructive, redeeming, holistic, and optimistic anthropology.

Jesus’ earthly interactions with people—both Jews and non-Jews—and his compassion toward men and women—the rich, the poor, the widow, the oppressed, the leper, the disable— (Yet, Jesus gave special attention to the outcast, the poor, and the disheartened) also provide effective resources to dismantle the power of race in contemporary world. Jesus’ theological anthropology was rooted in the social (lived-) experiences and lived-worlds of the people, as he was conscious about the socio-economic, and political dimensions that have stained the image of God in humanity. In the example of Jesus, we need to foster a view of humanity that is more dignified, inclusive, tolerant, and egalitarian. I suppose the modern conversation about race and racism in both intellectual and popular circles in the American society are missing these vital elements.

In the same line of thought, Christians and Christian churches have failed to respond appropriately to the crisis of race and its related problems because most of the churches in America are plateaued and are not applying the principles of Jesus to deal with life existential issues and to bring healing and comfort to the poor, the oppressed, the disfranchised individual, etc.

On the other hand, as a theologian, I must acknowledge there is indeed a theological aspect of race and racism, as the latter is a clear reflection of human depravity and our shortcoming to love God and our neighbor unconditionally and unreservedly. Racism is in fact a profound theological crisis; it is also an inevitable demonstration of the dark side of humanity. Nonetheless, the disposition in our hearts to sin and not to love another person as we’re supposed to is not an excuse to be racist, for example. We all need to be responsible for our actions and social sins, and make necessary amends or reparations for them. However, God through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ made it possible for humanity to achieve redemption in Christ.

The Easter message is also a story about God’s (and Christian) victory over sin and death. It gives us a reason to hang on in this life of uncertainty and despair. Easter is about hope, reconciliation, and love. By consequence, what are/should be the implications of the message of Easter for those whose humanity has been disvalued in our society? What are/should be the implications of the Easter message for the tremendous problem of racial reconciliation and harmony in Christian churches and our society? What are/should be the implications of the message of Easter for the problem of pain, suffering, and global terrorism in the modern world? What are/should be the implications of the Easter message for those who have the political, economic, and religious power and influence over people and to change the present and future worlds?

Happy Resurrection Day!

Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph

President

Hope for Today Outreach

The Lord will be Gracious and Compassionate Toward You

Happy Thursday, friends!

May I share with you a scriptural verse from my morning’s devotion:

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil”–Joel 2:13.

HTO MISSION TRIP PICS (PORT MARGOT, DEC. 18-26) 436

This verse clearly speaks of God’s willingness to pour out his grace and love toward those who repent genuinely and turn to him for help.

Have a wonderful day!

In Christ,
Dr. Joseph