Friday, 25 April 2014

Living Liberation Through Healing

'Freedom' by Lina Ostapovich

I was contacted with the unique opportunity to participate in a group blog effort on the topic of liberation for the upcoming Wild Goose Festival. Each blogger in the MennoNerds network received a list of topics related to the larger theme of liberation. I have chosen to blog about “liberation through healing”.

What do we mean by liberation? 
I was not provided a working definition, so let’s first sort out some terms before we move forward. Our trusty friend Google pulled up the following definition for us:

There are also some of us, like myself, that immediately thought, “Oh Liberation Theology.” (You know who you are!) So let’s bring everyone up to speed on what liberation theology is. 

“Liberation Theology grew out of a Conference of Latin American Roman Catholic Bishops meeting in Medellin, Columbia, in 1968, liberation theology is rooted in the idea that Christian salvation must include and be based upon social, political and economic liberation. It seeks to develop a Christian faith from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed. Peruvian theologian Gustavo Guitiérrez, who published, A Theology of Liberation in 1971, is generally seen as a foundational thinker of the movement.” [1]

There you have it. When we talk about liberation we are talking about releasing captives from bondage and oppression. We are talking about Salvation in the broadest sense of the term. 

Liberation theology is a necessary correction to a soteriology that is reduced to “how to get saved”rather about the whole salvific journey of Christian life— and consequently, whatever habitual disciplines or practices we might identify as helpful towards fostering our progression along this saving journey. If we only view salvation through a judicial lens- that is primarily about becoming free from condemnation- we will miss the wider use of the term by the writers of Scripture. Salvation also pertains to the liberation and the healing of humanity. As Green suggests,“the most common usage of these terms in the Greco-Roman world is medical. ‘To save’ was ‘to heal.’”[2]

What do we mean by healing? 

Again, I was not provided with any working definition, so I am going to turn again to our trusty friend Google pulled up the following definition for us. I went with the root word here:

Healing is the repairing of wounds, sicknesses’ and injuries. Our wounds and ailments may come from many places. We may have been born with a sickness.We may have acquired a sickness or wounds later in life. Our wounds may be the physical pain we carry in our bodies. Wounds can also be a deep emotional pain that we carry our souls. The pains and wounds of this life come in many forms. No one can escape this life without experiencing suffering and pain. No one is immune. We all have our need of liberation from wounds. 

Sickness is not limited to the personal realm. Sickness, if we see it as bigger than physical ailment, is pervasive on all levels of the human condition. Our societal, political, and economic systems are just as susceptible to the suffering of the human condition. Our structures and systems can perpetuate the suffering and pain in this world. Broken people can perpetuate brokenness. Hurt people, hurt people. 

Whole families can be held captive by the anguish of cycles of sickness. I know of families where grandpa was an alcoholic, dad was an alcoholic and the kids are entering into the whirlpool of addiction. Can they fight against the strong current of  addiction and swim to safety? Some do. Some don’t.

Churches can be sick, wounded, and injured. It is perhaps appropriate that the Apostle Paul compares the Church (ekklessia) to a body with many parts. (1 Cor 12) There are parts of the Body of Christ that are wounded, sick and injured. Right now, there are Churches all around the world in desperate need of healing. I have seen churches struggle with past wounds inflicted by a nasty split. I have seen churches suffer the marks of abusive leaders who caused deep heartache in members of the Body. I have seen churches endure ‘Corporate Cancer’- a deadly condition in which diseased cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumours. Churches that have suffered ‘Corporate Cancer’ might be missing a body part that had to be removed in order to save the body. I find it heartbreaking when I see a local Church missing a lung or a kidney from a long battle with ‘Corporate Cancer’. 

I have seen entire cities in need of healing: socially, politically and economically. There is a city just ten miles down the road from the bustling market town where I live and work. It’s a town where Second and Third generations of families live close to the poverty line and require on-going government assistance. It’s a community that has more police and more crime per capita than cities and towns in its surrounding area. When you go to this community you will see boarded up businesses, libraries, and homes. No one speaks well of this city. “What good could come from this city”, some might say. I don’t know why this city has this reputation. I do not pretend to understand why a city a mere ten miles away is so different, so lacking, and in such desperate need of healing, restoration, and resurrection.

This is all to say that before we can talk about living liberation through healing, we need to understand that we need healing in far greater ways than we realize. We can sometimes reduce our need of healing to the individual in need of emotional or physical healing and forget to address the systemic wounds, sicknesses’ and injuries. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sums this up beautifully in an apt illustration from the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed.  True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar.  It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved.  We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved.”

Okay, let’s move forward....

I believe that to live liberation through healing is to embody a Jesus-centered, Spirit-empowered lifestyle. God is the author of our healing and liberation. True healing and liberation must be Christ-centered and yoked to the inauguration of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. True liberation through healing, views Jesus as the pinnacle of all examples to follow- the exemplar of the new creation. Jesus came to liberate us- to release captives from bondage and oppression. Jesus came to heal us- to repair our wounds, sicknesses’ and injuries. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8b) We could say that liberation and healing are in many ways the same thing. Both actions seek to release captives, and return us to a state of peace. You might even say that liberation is the end goal and healing is the means. Certainly, Jesus demonstrates this to us. Derek Flood comments: 

“When we look at the ministry of Jesus, we see that the majority of his actions are not focused on calling people to repentance, but rather on ministering to the sick, disabled, and mentally ill, all of which have a direct connection to poverty. In the time of Jesus, illness was seen as God’s curse, and as a result people with chronic illness and disability were often ostracized from love and social support. This marginalization understandably led to a spiral of destructive behaviour: substance abuse, prostitution, theft, and so on. So we can see that sin (understood as bad behaviour) and physical sickness are deeply intertwined.

Once we realize this, the fourfold ministry of Jesus—healing the sick, freeing the demonically oppressed, forgiving the sinner, and caring for the poor—can be seen as addressing the full scope of human brokenness. All of these are part of his salvation work which was not only focused on dealing with moral problems, but dealt with the full person: physically, mentally, spiritually/ethically, and socially.

This fourfold ministry of Jesus all together made up the gospel as Jesus understood and lived it. Each was an integral part of the mission he had come to do. Jesus had not come only to forgive sin, but to liberate us from everything that could separate us from God and life, whether that meant crushing illness, dehumanizing poverty, or spirals of destructive behaviour. This is a gospel that addresses us on both an individual and social level, and that takes on the estrangement resulting from suffering and injustice, just as it does the alienation of guilt and shame.” [3]

So how do we live liberation through healing?

This might sound a bit cliché. (I am okay with that. -and please don't think that I have a complete answer here) 

Be a person of faith. 

I am not talking about feeling psychological certitude, or trying your best to conjure up enough faith points in order to see healing and liberation.  

I am talking about a covenant trust. I am talking about a faith that is embodied. It's a faith that will act in accordance with the covenant. It is through this kind of faith that we participate in bringing God's future eschatological reality into the present. 

I am talking about a faith that simply and profoundly trusts; in all things; and through all things. This means trusting Jesus as the Good Physician, who will have the ultimate final word over the power of sin, death, and the grave. 

This means trusting God in the absence of our healing; in the absence of our liberation. We may not see liberation in this life. We may not see healing in this life.  It can be painful to have faith that trusts beyond circumstances, beyond status quos, and beyond ourselves. Will we still trust when our faith is not our sight? Do we dare to believe and hope for the day when God will set things right? I submit that this is the tension of the now and the not yet of the Kingdom of God. 

So may you embody a life of New Creation that speaks of a new world in Christ. 

May you invite The Healer to breathe on you.

And may you live a life of Healing and Liberation.

Thanks for reading!

The Wild Goose Festival is a gathering at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. Happening June 26-29 outside of Asheville in Hot Springs, NC. You can get more information and tickets here:

Works Cited

1.“Liberation theology”, Pocket Dictionary of Church History, Feldmeth, Nathan (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1999) 90. 
2. Green, Salvation, 35–36.
3. Flood, Derek. Healing the Gospel (Eugene: Cascade books, 2012) 63. (e-version)

Opening artwork: "Freedom" by Lina Ostapovich

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

What Brad Jersak is learning about the Bible.

Dr. Brad Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC, where he attends Fresh Wind Christian Fellowship and serves as Reader at All Saints of North America Monastery. He is also apart of the faculty of Westminster Theological Centre (UK) with an emphasis on the New Testament and Patristics. Jersak contributes regularly to Plain Truth Ministries, the Clarion Journal of Spirituality and Justice, the Owl, and the Red Virgin. [1]

I first met Brad Jersak at a school retreat in my last year of Bible College. Brad was teaching on a topic that he aptly titled, 'Listening Prayer'. I was really impacted by that weekend of teaching and prayer. I thought, "I like what this Jersak is saying." I observed that Brad conducted the meetings in a really responsive and sensitive manner. I did not see a wild a preacher trying brew up a firestorm. I did not hear the old time message of 'sing louder, prayer longer, and try harder', that I often encountered in my Pentecostal upbringing. [2] What I encountered was an invitation to tune-in to the God who was already speaking. I couldn't believe it! It seemed revolutionary that I didn't have to work myself up in order to hear God speak. I didn't need to sing ten worship songs, or pray for an hour before the Lord might speak. I just need to listen. God was and is ready and waiting to talk to me, to walk with me, to tell me that I am God's own. Imagine that! (I have written a few reflections on Listening Prayer here.) 

I've since read his books, listened to podcasts, and seen Jersak at a few conferences. This guy is legit. This is all to say that I could not recommend Brad Jersak more highly to you. He is Christ-Centred, graceful, and a brilliant communicator. That being said, I bring us to the following helpful teaching video from Jersak: 

"What I am learning about the Bible"

1:50 - Chapter One of reading the Bible: "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." 

11:04 - Why we should not read our Bible 'flat'. 

13:03- "I ended up in a Mennonite church" OR...reading our Bible through the lens of Jesus.

14:42 - Reading the Bible as training and not just for information. 

15:54- "The Youth Pastor teaching cycle"

16:50- Chapter Two: "Jesus Centred Training Time". 

24:27 - Chapter Three: Confronting the Ugly Parts of the Bible. "Why didn't I see the 'icky stuff' before? I was either skimming or reading the Bible like a cartoon.... I think I was ignoring the 'bad parts'."

25:52- Here is the problem with ignoring the ugly parts of the Bible. "Atheists are NOT ignoring it". 

36:13 - "I am glad I didn't stop here." 

37:00 - Two suggestions for reading the ugly parts of the Bible. 

45:00-  Chapter Four: The Jesus Lens: Reading the Bible with Jesus as our Rabbi. 

46:47- Closing exhortations and application.  


1. Information lifted from 
2.I don't mean to say all Pentecostals present this approach. I am merely conveying my personal life long experience of growing up as a Canadian Pentecostal. I remember all too many meetings where God was not going to 'show up' unless we yelled louder, prayed harder, and sang longer. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A conversation about: "Restitution"

The following is a conversation between Reggie Rivett and myself on the topic of restitution. Reggie is one of my best friends in the whole world. He was the best man at my wedding. I was the best man at his wedding! We attended Horizon College & Seminary together and share a long history of 'thinking out-loud' about theology. I invite you to enjoy this conversation between two friends. 

Should restitution still be practiced in the church? Or does that fly in the face of grace and forgiveness? ‪#‎ex22‬.3 ‪#‎theology‬

Define restitution.

1: a sum of money paid in compensation for loss or injury 
2: the act of restoring something to its original state
3: getting something back again;

If there is restitution, I would think that it would flow out of a reconciliation of the relationship and only at the initiation of the offender. If we forgive expecting & demanding a restitution, then that is not forgiveness. That is payment.

In that case, we are then force to swallow the loss by ourselves. There is no repercussions for sin. It does not cost. 
Is that consistent with Scripture?

Yes we are forgiven of our sins through the sacrifice of Christ, but we still have to live with the consequences, don't we?

I suppose that if we frame the discussion as 'forced to swallow' rather than 'compelled by the love of God to reciprocate Divine forgiveness towards others' it takes on a different light. 
Does God inflict humanity with repercussions in order to forgive us? Did the Father of the prodigal punish the younger son in order to reconcile him? (Luke 15) 
What if Christians should 'forgive as the Lord forgives' (Col 3.13)? That is to say... freely, without condition, and willing to absorb sin in order to condemn it. (Rom 8.3) 
RE: Consequences. Yes, sin has built in consequences. The younger son experienced the results of his actions. I don't see the Father punishing the younger son to get his 'pound of flesh' in order to forgive. Do you?

God does not inflict humanity with repercussions for forgiveness. But that doesn't mean that our "bad behaviour" doesn't have consequence.If that were the case, we could do anything and simply plead forgiveness to avoid the ramifications of our actions. 
The question is does sin come built in with consequences, and does God and His forgiveness remove them?
If we say there is no consequence to our sin, why not go on sinning? There would be grace and it would abound over our sins...

The end goal of forgiveness is reconciliation. (one-ness) The Father of the Prodigal Son had obviously already forgiven him, as demonstrated by his running out to his lost son. We can choose to forgive someone 70 x 7 but that does not always entail reconciliation. The son had to 'come home' in order to be reconciled. We too in our relationships must allow people to come to their senses and come home; so to speak. This does not always happen.  
Forgiveness is not saying 'it didn't happen'. It's not cheap. You had to absorb the loss. You had to take the hit. Forgiveness is choosing to refrain from retribution and cancel the debt owed to you. The younger son still squandered half the families inheritance. The money was not coming back. But a 'lost and dead' son DID come back. Forgiveness seeks to rescue that which can be saved.  
Does God remove consequences? I don't know. I am sure you could make a case for yes & no. I know God allows 'those in authority' to punish evildoers who sin against the State (Rom 13). On the other hand, Paul's vision of the church is one that 'overcomes evil with good' (Rom 12), leaves room for God's wrath and forgives and welcomes sinners. 
No where in Paul do I see evidence of a retributive justice, but rather Paul, and the other NT authors are consistently restorative in matters of church discipline. Consider the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul doesn’t instruct the Corinthians to punish the man with the sword (whatever that means), but rather hands the man over to satan (v5a) and instructs the church to expel the man from the church. (v13) Paul does all of this correction in hopes “that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”(v5b) You could also make the case that reconciliation did happen to this man. (Check out 2 Corinthians 2:5-11) 

Hold up. I agree with you. We are just talking the same subject from two different perspectives.If someone sins against us, and restitution is required, as Christians grace and forgiveness should be our response. Totally agree. 
I am thinking, when WE sin against someone, Christians or not, we should be paying restitution.We come asking for forgiveness and start mending the hurt, bringing restoration by way of restitution.

Certainly, the younger son thought he could earn forgiveness in order to be welcomed back as a servant in the Father's house. I am sure he was shocked at the response of his gracious, relationship-restoring Father.

I do not think we can always bring restitution. If it is in our financial ability, we might be able to replace material objects.But how do you bring restitution when you've broken relationships through hurtful actions? 

How does a murderer bring restitution to his victims family? He simply cannot. There is nothing in the world to replace a person. 

How does a cheating wife//husband bring restitution to her//his spouse? Is there anything they could do to 'payback' that kind of damage to a marriage? 

I think more is involved in the repentance process than mere payback. Consider what Paul says about thieves in Ephesus: 
"Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." - Ephesians 4:28
He doesn't just say, payback what you owe. He gives them a whole new operating system to model their lives after. They do have to "work" instead of steal. But then Paul doesn't end with 'stop stealing, and start earning'.... he says that they need to embody a new perspective that is a full repentance of the old ways. Those that steal must then learn to "share with those in need". Its a complete 180 degree turn around to a new way of living.

An example of what I am talking about from the lips of Reg Rivett.
One guy offered to take down his neighbour's barb wire fence from his pasture if he could keep the wire. He drove over a rock while rolling the wire and started a fire that burned his neighbour's crop. It was estimated to be $1 million in damages. No insurance, since it wasn't his field. As a Christian he is paying back his neighbour.
That is what I am talking about.

I really like the example you've shared. I really respect the person's decision to pay his neighbour for the losses. Question though.... Is that restitution or functioning as a 'just' person? At least the way I understand restitution, is that there is a relational divide, a chasm...etc. It's framed within conflict resolution. 

If there is no conflict, can there be restitution? I'd like to say that the story you provided is an example of love & justice rather than conflict restitution. He took the initiative even though he probably could have said it was an accident and walked away.

All that to say... It's probably a good idea to pay back what you owe in a financial sense. That is being a 'just' person. Call it restitution if you want. 

Thanks for reading!