God’s counter-cultural community
Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 20 October 2010, 14:14
TUESDAY 19 OCTOBER – Whether by accident or design, there are no women in my table group, and on a day when we’re reflecting on the theme of reconciliation, that feels like our loss. However, there are plenty of women involved in Lausanne III, and, with great foresight, the organisers have invited Ruth Padilla DeBorst to lead the morning Bible study on Ephesians 2.
DeBorst is the General Secretary of the Latin American Theological Fellowship and is based in Costa Rica. Her father, René Padilla, spoke at the first Lausanne Conference in 1974, and now it’s her turn.
DeBorst organises the whole address around a contrast between the Pax Romana – the state of affairs that prevailed in Ephesus and throughout much of the known world – and the Pax Christi, the new community created and centred on Jesus Christ. One is imposed by conquest, domination and military power. The other is the gift of God, brought about by the reconciling work of Christ on the cross and rooted in love.
The letter to the Ephesians, she says, ‘paints a picture of death in which we all walked. But into this situation the community of love – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – breaks in and brings life… Jesus makes peace by restoring justice. He sends his disciples beyond the ethnic constraints of Israel to the outcast, the oppressed, the suffering, the women, the slaves.’
DeBorst goes on to show that the Apostle Paul is gripped by ‘the cosmic implications of this Gospel and preached mutual submission to all… He recognised the anointed ministries of women and slaves.’
Out of previously ‘distanced individuals’, God creates a new counter-cultural community, a new household where Christ is the cornerstone. ‘Do we envision ourselves as living stones that must fit together?’ Do we recognise ‘that the most powerful witness is our relationships with one another – of justice, and love and reconciliation?’
Ruth Padilla DeBorst’s powerful challenge finds echoes throughout the morning as one speaker after another draws attention to appalling situations in our world today that cry out for justice and reconciliation: Pranitha Timothy, telling of her work to free the estimated 15 million slaves in India; Shadia Qubti, and Dan Sered, as Palestinian and Jew respectively, reflecting on the quest for peace in the Middle East; Antoine Rutayisire confronting the scandal of the Rwandan genocide which took place in an overwhelmingly ‘Christian’ country. And there are more.
It’s an emotionally draining morning in which a broken world cries out for the peace of Christ.