Why the Cross Changes Everything

Every Good Friday I usually go outside to pray when the time is approaching 3 PM. That’s when he died. He who transformed my life.

There was a time when I didn’t care at all about Jesus. He was cool, sure, but he didn’t have as many superpowers as Superman and he was far less badass than Samus Aran. The church, in my opinion, was a boring museum. The Bible was hard to read and lacked pictures.

But when I was confronted with my own mortality and understood the message of Easter – that he died for us to live forever – then I could not get enough of him. I opened the gospels and read. I can honestly say that I have never encountered so much wisdom and love from any other person, before or after.

Some want to reduce Jesus to a non-divine moral teacher. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, it is impossible. A reasonable moral teacher does not claim to be the Son of God, the light of the world, and the door to eternal life – unless it is true.

But I understand why people recognize Jesus as wise and moral. He is! That’s what makes the painful killing of him so incomprehensible and wrong.

God died on that cross. God himself died for our sake so that we would have the eternal life we ​​in no way deserve. This eternal life, in eternal happiness, is greater than anything we can imagine. No other gift is so great and as wonderful as the gift of living in paradise.

All the peace and justice we long for will be realized to its fullest in heaven. That’s no reason to stop promoting such Kingdom-values here. On the contrary, when we truly have the eternal perspective we will become even more zealous to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As John says:

“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)

What I realized 13 years ago is that when we celebrate on Sunday that Jesus arose from death, it is not just that we are happy for His sake. His resurrection shows where we are going if we follow him. His path is the path of life. A life that never ends. It is because of his painful death on the cross that we can go that way.

Today at 3 PM, think of Jesus and pray to him. He loves you so much that he was subjected to one of the world’s most evil execution methods. He gave everything for you. You are too precious and loved to be lost in the bottomless darkness of death. God, your Creator and Friend, calls you to eternal happiness.

Micael Grenholm is the editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Cleansing of the Temple and Non-Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple is the most commonly cited example of those who allege that he did not absolutize loving enemies or refraining from violence. I submit that this episode implies nothing of the sort.

First, it is important that we understand that this episode was not an expression of unpremeditated anger on Jesus’ part, as some allege. Most NT scholars concur that this was a calculated, strategic act on Jesus’ part, and it contained deep symbolic significance. More specifically, this episode appears to be a classic example of a prophetic symbolic action.

There is, however, some disagreement over what exactly Jesus was symbolizing. For example, many argue that Jesus was revealing himself to be the long-awaited messiah who was widely expected to cleanse and/or restore the Temple. Others argue that Jesus was symbolically revealing Yahweh’s displeasure with the corrupt religious establishment and issuing a prophetic warning that the Temple would soon be destroyed, a point that John makes explicit (Jn 2: 19-22). While interpretations differ, however, they all presuppose that the Temple cleansing was anything but a spontaneous tantrum on the part of Jesus.

Second, there is simply no indication in any of the Gospels that Jesus resorted to violence when he cleansed the Temple. Yes, the texts suggest that Jesus was angry, and yes, John tells us that Jesus made a whip (Jn 2:15). But there is no suggestion that he used it to strike any animal or person. To the contrary, throughout history cracking a whip has been a commonly used means of controlling the movement of animals, and John explicitly reports that this is what Jesus used it for.

He used the whip to create an animal stampede of “both sheep and cattle” out of the “temple courts” (Jn 2:15). Not only this, but had Jesus actually whipped any of the court officials, it is hard to imagine how he could have avoided being arrested on the spot. It is also hard to imagine how he could have avoided the charge of hypocrisy, for such behavior would have flown in the face of his previously mentioned public teachings about refraining from violence.

There is therefore nothing about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple that runs counter to my claim that the non-violent, enemy-embracing, self-sacrificial love that was supremely revealed on the cross is the thematic center of Jesus’ identity and mission. To the contrary, Jesus engaged in a kind of “street theater” out of love for his “Father’s house” as well as for the poor who were being oppressed by the corrupt leaders who ran the Temple’s “buying and selling” system.

And, as the Gospels make clear, he confronted these leaders in this aggressive manner as a way of forcing their hand, and thus as a steppingstone to his crucifixion. Far from illustrating Jesus acting in an unloving, let alone violent way, I submit that this entire episode reflects Jesus’ self-sacrificial love.

Moreover, John explicitly makes the cross the thematic center of this episode, for he records that Jesus brings this episode to a close by drawing a connection between the newly cleansed temple, which Jesus prophesied would soon be permanently destroyed, and his own body, which would rise again three days after being destroyed (Jn 2:19-22).

Read in context, NT scholar Richard Hays notes, John is declaring “that Jesus’ body is now the place where God dwells, the place where atonement for sin occurs, the place where the division between God and humanity is overcome.” Hence, far from counting against the thematic centrality of the cross, the Temple cleansing illustrates this centrality.

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Church, Poverty and Domestic Violence

She came to our women’s Bible study one day. Her name was Linda, no on really knew her, no one was really sure how she found our Bible study. After coming a few times, she disappeared from our group. Krista, one of our members, had one of those impressions that she should call her. And Linda returned one day to tell us that her husband was going to kill her.

What to do, we were just a ladies Bible study untrained in such things. The Spirit prompted me to ask Linda if she had an escape plan. Together, we worked out a plan, set a date, vowed to secrecy. And we prayed.

That night our little Bible study group attended a local Revival meeting in a near by city. After the message we huddled together at the altar and once again prayed for our friend Linda. Corporately, we felt like the friends of the lame man who had broken a hole in the roof and lowered our friend before Jesus, the one who could actually heal and bring life… So we prayed into that Bible story.

On the set date, we gathered together, helped Linda pack up her things, picked up her daughter at school and began the journey toward the airport. We were stuffed together like sardines but we all wanted to be there to see Linda off.

We collected a little money and prayed one more time for safety.

Linda made it out finding freedom in a faraway city with her mother. But many do not find such freedom or safety. As a pastor, I regularly come across women stuck in poverty largely because of domestic violence or other forms of abuse. It’s staggering to me how many of them shared stories of how the church supported their abusers, believed the abuser, at the expense of theirs and their children’s well-being.

I currently serve in a city with a significant homeless population and it is startling to learn how many homeless people are women, often women with children. As I learn their stories and get to know them, I have discovered the role domestic violence plays in poverty and homelessness.

Even more curious is how the “Biblical” narrative about husbands being the head of the home feeds abuse and justifies the behavior of those who abuse. I hear story after story after story of how pastors have told victims of genuine abuse to go home, try to be a better wife and submit more to her husband or just give him more sex. One woman we helped went to a Biblical prayer counselor who in front of her husband told her she had a Jezebel Spirit. This fed the narrative her abuser was using to keep her in his control. Because this was offered as a “word” from the Lord, she was terrified that she would be going against God if she left.

There was a popular Deliverance Ministry–Bondage Breakers in the mid to late 90’s that proliferated the notion that if a woman was not submissive to her husband then the devil would attack her. This became embedded in various deliverance ministries around the nation. When an abuse victim and her husband sought prayer counsel, this “biblical” idea would surface keeping the abused person in further bondage and shame.

It is curious how little pastors and churches grasp the role of abuse and violence in poverty and homelessness. Instead, in our political dialogue, we lay the blame for poverty on laziness and lack of ambition. In reality poverty and homelessness related to domestic violence has nothing to do with laziness and lack of ambition. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on one night alone 55,000 beds in shelters across the country were set aside for homeless women affected by domestic violence. That number is staggering!

And I wonder how many more that night remained in their abusive home fearing that they and their children would end up without a home and in a shelter.

Here are some practical ideas that churches could do to help this crisis.

  1. Believe the one being abused. The body of Christ must stop with the teaching that women are easily deceived and that men are somehow less open to deception. This feeds the narrative that women are not reliable when they bring up abuse. I have observed that women go to their churches long after the abuse has begun. Often she has tried everything and suffered many years before she has mustered the courage to tell someone. In addition there is a psychology abusers use to gaslight and undermine a victim’s sense of reality making it harder for her to come forward.
  2. Give practical aid. Homelessness and domestic violence often stem from not being able to gather enough money to get into an apartment or rental. Often in situations when the victim finally leaves the abuse, she finds herself without enough money to pay a deposit and first months rent. It takes a few months to get rental assistance, childcare assistance, health care assistance and other helps. And this kind of assistance is needed just to climb out of homelessness. I don’t often find churches willing or able to provide much for transitional help. (We offered radical hospitality in our home for six months until victims were able to find work, get childcare and launch into self-support).
  3. Provide emotional support and prayer. Because of the psychology around abuse, emotional support and prayer are vital. Often women believe God has forgotten them or worse they are going against God when leaving the abuse. The gaslighting and emotional abuse has damaged the victim’s sense of self and decision making ability is diminished. Emotional and prayer support can help a sense of self re-emerge as emotions are validated and prayer is given.
  4. Include them in the church community. Often victims of abuse are excluded in the church community because there is yet a stigma around leaving one’s husband. Especially if the couple was a part of the community together. Often people have a hard time believing such things could happen among Christians and when the perpetrator is known it’s even more difficult. But being a part of a Christian community can be so healing if the victim is believed and supported. Often this is not the case and they are left wondering if God has abandoned them too.

Over the years, I have seen the hand of God moving mightily on behalf of victims of domestic violence. I know that he cares. Each time God brings another woman into my life, he speaks and lets me know what is needed. God also provides insight and resources in surprising ways. I know these women are on God’s heart even if they are not on the church’s hearts. The Army of Heaven is with them and we can join God in defeating this satanic system that keeps his beloved daughters from flourishing.

Pentecostal Spirituality: The Power to Practice (Not Just Believe)

By Elizabeth D. Rios, EdD, DMin (ABD)

I started this article a week ago, but felt something was missing. Today, I found it. I think it was holy indignation!

What sparked this holy anger?

Hearing a well-known, popular, nationally recognized Pentecostal preacher share (on an Instagram clip) on his pulpit that he hates politics. How he doesn’t give a rip about it. How he doesn’t care who is in charge.

He then goes on to say, “You know how we find our help, through Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, the power of the holy ghost. You get involved in that mess, you get involved in offenses. ‘That offends me, well I can’t believe…’ Who gives a rip what they say? I want to know what God says. I’ve lived long enough to be in a place where I am asking the question, is it going to be politics or Pentecost?”

To which you hear the congregation break out into applause. Although it wasn’t overwhelming applause there were still people who actually thought this was responsible preaching. Albeit, he’s been a pastor for decades (and I actually like and know him) but I had to hear it over a few times because I was sad and yes, mad over it. Continue reading Pentecostal Spirituality: The Power to Practice (Not Just Believe)

The Challenge of Followership

Leadership! It’s a fraught word, describing an even more fraught set of ideals. Leadership, in the final analysis, is neither good or bad. It is amoral. Like the notes on the musical scale and the letters of the alphabet, the essence of leadership, according to John Maxwell, is influence. When people are gifted as leaders, or in some way attain a leadership title, they walk in positions of influence. 

And therein lies the rub, because a culture is set according to the heart of the leader and those they surround themselves with, for good or evil, for strength or weakness. Someone whose influence leads people where they otherwise may not have gone, be it morally just or morally reprehensible, is setting or changing a culture for the duration of their leadership and beyond. That is, technically, good leadership, be it ever so terrible in its outcome. Nations, churches, organisations rise and fall on the way in which they’ve been led.  In 2019 the various modes of leadership across the planet denote that we, as citizens of the world, are in serious trouble.

In the face of drastic climate change in which the earth is vomiting the symptoms of its travail in torrents of floods, droughts, bushfires, cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, mud slides, volcanic eruptions and other ‘un’natural catastrophes across the planet, one group stands as the voice of reason, crying out for the influencers of the world to pay attention and change course before it’s too late. The other group, like the people in Noah’s day, keep working, consuming, using, spending and playing as though there’s no tomorrow – which one day may be true. Continue reading The Challenge of Followership

What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog as the second part of a series on Spirit empowering.

If the immediate expression of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was prophetic empowerment, the longer-range impact was a new community of believers who walked together in their lives and shared one another’s needs.

Much of Acts 2:41-47 follows the following structure:

A         2:41     Successful evangelism (3000 converts)

B         2:42     Sharing meals, praying together

C         2:44-45            Sharing possessions

B’        2:46-47a          Shared meals, worship

A’        2:47b   Successful evangelism

Whereas the conversions in 2:41 responded to Peter’s preaching, the conversions in 2:47 apparently responded to the life of the new community. Peter’s preaching explained divine signs at Pentecost; but the sacrificial love that Christians showed one another was no less divine, no less supernatural. Continue reading What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit

by Alex Mayfield, originally posted on Engaged Pentecostalism.

The rise of populist and nationalist movements around the world is a fact of our time. A quick survey finds the tide rising the world over: the recent Brazilian presidential victory ofdictatorship-loving Bolsonaro, the many far-right groups gaining ground in European elections, the rise of violent Hindutva in India, and the increasingly abrasive Chinese nationalism fostered under Xi Jinping illustrate that nationalists movements have turned ethnic, cultural, and national identity towards increasingly troubling ends.

Here in the United States, Trumpian politics have risen to power by questioning the legitimacy of a black leaders and stoking fears over Hispanic migrants, and ethnno-nationalist ideas have gained renewed traction among conservative voters. While support of Donald Trump cannot be equated with an embrace of racism, it is no accident that radical white nationalist groups have been growing and becoming increasingly vocal in their support of the president; these groups are ideologically wrong, but they are not stupid.

These trends should be concerning for anyone who is a student of history: rampant nationalism tends to breed war. While undermining the international order is one thing, the rise of Trumpian politics has had a more concrete casualty: the public witness of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. Continue reading From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice