Over the past year I’ve been active in advocacy for young people, refugees, the LGBTI community and cultural reconciliation among other things. It has been a huge and busy year which has lead me to share my story with a wide range of people across the country. More and more often recently conversations and interviews have ended with the question, ‘What drives you?’ I’ve heard it after speaking at conferences, in radio and television interviews and over coffees with people. I often give a cryptic or guised answer that hints at what I’m about which would sound overtly Christian to others of that persuasion, but stays palatable to the general public. This short piece is with the purpose of giving a practical understanding of what it is within the way and person of Christ that leads me to live the way I do. Because I know a wide and diverse range of people will read this there are a couple of things that are good to understand before reading. Firstly, I am not questioning or demeaning the passion and capability of many people of other faiths and other outlooks to do great work. This is my perspective and I’m sure many of you will have yours. Secondly, I have not directly quoted from the Bible to support my perspective but I’m happy to provide references to anyone who would like them. So here we go, three under-pinning principles that drive me:
People like me understand that the earth and all creation was made to speak of what God is like. Much like a mirror, everything from the beauty of humanity to nature and food is meant to convey his character. Somewhere along the way we stopped stewarding the world and started exploiting it, stopped loving one another and started using each other, stopped sharing what we had and starting consuming it. The way humanity lives damages the earth, damages creation, and so damages the picture of God offered to all people. This leads me to be passionate about restoration because, when we restore the earth, it’s people and it’s creation then we also restore the damaged picture of God that humanity sees.
People like me understand that God is a god of justice. This means that it hurts her when her children are abused, neglected and damaged. Christ’s ministry saw many times where he would break social taboos and norms in order to champion justice for the oppressed such as holding the infectiously sick and campaigning for the rights of women and children as equal citizens to men. Today this might look like holding the ebola patient or campaigning for transgender rights, even if you may not fully understand their struggle or agree. Christ asks his followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and free the prisoner. He says if we don’t then we were never really his followers to begin with. The leads me to be passionate about justice because, when we protect the humanity of one another, we show the compassion and the care that God shows for his children.
People like me understand that God is a god of healing. This means that the ultimate vision of God is for all her children to be brought into full health. That full health is spiritual, but it’s also physical, emotional and communal. It means a good relationship with God, with one another, with our bodies and with our minds. As someone who has gone through the mental health trauma of depression and anxiety I know that my spiritual health could not be separated from my mental health – these things are dependent on one another. Sometimes people want to hear the Good News of Jesus, but other times they experience it through kind gestures, through genuine care and through holistic healing. This leads me to be passionate about holistic wellness because, when we restore one another’s bodies, minds, relationships and spirits then we are better able to perceive how much God loves us. We correct the distorted lens of our own sickness.
By now you may have agreed with most of what I have to say, so here’s the controversial bit: I believe that restoration, justice and wholeness are only possible in their fullness with Jesus. I believe in working passionately for the restoration of the earth, but I think this is a losing battle without the eventual promise of God’s full restoration. I believe in outworking justice for all, but I also think that humanity by it’s nature will always judge unfairly and do badly by one another until perfect leadership comes in the form of Christ. I believe in devotedly pursuing wholeness for people, but I also think that damaged humans will never be able to fully heal other damaged humans. We ultimately need the miraculous and powerful intervention of God.
You may not agree with this, but hopefully you can agree with how this leads me to act. As Jesus said, you will know me by the fruit of my actions. What I can tell you is that over the past decade working constantly for these things of restoration, justice and wholeness I have seen many, many people burnout and give up. They are tired of the constant crusade for change in the same way many of us were the other day when the TPPA was ratified. Our best efforts seem to fail again and again to make even a dent on the reality.
What has kept me passionate, kept me devoted and unrelenting is a daily relationship with Jesus that goes beyond just being ‘the ethics of Christ’. Each day I pray, I hear his heart for humanity and it breaks mine. From here, I resolve again that to be his son is to work with him so that all would know the best life possible and know freedom. It is not a set of ideas that drives me, it is my relationship with Christ and my pursuit of having his character. So there you go, now you know, let’s continue to work together...