Presentation by J Trevor Jones to the PCC of Santa Margarita at the meeting in November 2016.
The fourth Mark of Mission – to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.
This is far reaching. The more I think about all this, the bigger the concept becomes. Each of the three separate yet inter-dependent areas cover from my relationship with the ‘next person’ to nothing less than world peace. How do we as mere individuals approach this? I have decided to focus on the justice aspect which binds the three together.
I am minded that in answer to a not dissimilar question, Jesus said “unless you become as one of these” (children). When it comes to a question of justice a child can judge with absolute clarity and certainty “that’s not fair” – simply if both sides are not equal.
We all live as members of a society built upon many structures – our family, our nationhood, our church, democracy, healthcare, exploitation of resources and many others. With any of these there can be unfairness or discrimination based on politics, religion, colour, gender, race, disablement and again, many others. Violence too takes many forms. It can be against persons or property and can be physical or mental. It can be used by both individuals or groups. An underlying problem can be the human desire to acquire more possessions than, and to hold power over, the next person, to be a “have”, superior to a “have-not”.
The usual response to unfairness is to call for `justice` which in practice can seem to be a need to mete out punishment, to seek revenge, to get even, to get our own back. We can imprison a thief or murderer, levy a fine, challenge a bully, vote against an unsatisfactory government, wage war against an aggressive regime and where and if available, claim restitution. Honour is deemed satisfied. Both sides may be minus an eye or a tooth but in their diminished state they are equal.
However, as Christians, we can overlie these responses. We can seek to transform by recognising that structures of society are fundamentally comprised of individual people. We can transform by being more eager to raise up the suffering, the wronged and the deprived than to damage the perpetrator. Indeed, may we raise up the perpetrator too by showing mercy to both sides. Will peace and reconciliation grow from such diminished states or from such raised states?
May we approach unjust structures of society and violence of every kind with this firmly in mind – that the consequence of mans’ (our) sin is our punishment by crucifixion and death, but that in His infinite mercy, His grace, God in Jesus has suffered our punishment for us so that we can have peace being reconciled to Him.
A final thought – who is in the greater need of our prayers, the wronged or the wrongdoer?
J Trevor Jones