New Skin to Bear the World

"If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand."

Mark 3:20-35

June 22, 2018, Words By: Joel Van Dyke, Image By: unknown

“I am suffering, it really hurts. It has been unbelievably painful for me to be confronted with the enormous division that exists in Nicaragua between those of us who profess Christ. Supposedly we make up 41% of the population but we have not been able to find any unity of response in the face of the deep woundedness of our nation. Those who are reacting in an active manner in the middle of this crisis are judging negatively those who have chosen to remain in their churches praying and fasting and those who have chosen to pray are attacking those who are practicing active resistance. And then there are others who have simply decided not to express themselves nor respond in any way whatsoever.”

“I find myself loving those who think like me and find myself more and more frustrated beyond words with my brothers and sisters who do not see, feel or are choosing to respond to the situation differently than myself.”

This is a translated portion of a gut level e-mail I received from Hultner, a close friend and colleague, in Nicaragua this past week. In our monthly calls with our Street Psalms Senior Fellows and Urban Training Collaborative Hub Directors, we often find ourselves burdened by the painful realities of where one another live and serve.

In this past month’s meeting, we prayed for Nicaragua and our friends working there. The country is being confronted with a dangerous situation that is threatening to spiral out of control. As always, those who are most vulnerable will pay the highest price. The age-old pattern of human behavior is being modeled as some people from all “sides” of the rising conflict have chosen to operate within the world’s formula for transformation—peace through force. In Mark 3, Jesus reveals this as the way of the Evil One:

“Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: How can Satan drive out Satan? (Mark 3:23)

In Jesus’ rhetorical question, he is holding up a mirror before the faces of the chief perpetrators of the rising violence around him (“How can Satan drive out Satan”?). He is exposing a false belief upon which human social interaction has often been predicated: that violence can overcome violence.

The religious leaders are claiming that Jesus himself must be in strategic partnership with Satan. They assume, therefore, that they are on “Team God” fighting against “Team Satan.” They see themselves as engaged in the glorious kingdom work of exposing and expelling evil. For them, the only way to wage this war is to combat violence with a more forceful expression of violence. And Jesus has currently become the most convenient object of their rage.

Unlike the Evil One, however, Jesus refuses to cast out violence by means of returned violence. He makes crystal clear that a “kingdom (or house) divided against itself cannot stand” because the human way (“Satan driving our Satan”) of simply organizing in opposition to someone or something else, with the goal of destruction or expulsion, will not work.

Jesus will later proclaim, “My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (Jn. 14:27). God’s peace is not like our peace in that it is not achieved through violence. Peace is not only the end result of the gospel, but the means of the Gospel. In a word, the Gospel IS peace.

Our Nicaraguan friends are modeling the Gospel of Peace for us as they seek to engage the current chaos in their beloved nation. They are doing so as “third way” leaders after the example of Jesus. They are struggling honestly through the tempting dualism of either/or. They are helping to teach us to not see the world in terms of win/lose, but in terms of win/win. When confronted between two options in rivalry, they are looking to live into a third way.

This is not compromise, but the ability to reconcile opposites into a new whole. Incarnational leaders committed to peacemaking hold tensions, incorporate the negative, see without judgment and act without compulsion. Nicaragua, and all of us, are in desperate need of leaders who, committed to shalom, live and serve as the “reconciling third” of their cities and nations.

A prayer from SAID, an Iranian poet, prophetically calls forth what Jesus embodies and our friends in Nicaragua are living into:

I refuse
to engage prayer as a weapon
I wish it to be like a river
between two shores
for I seek neither punishment nor grace
but new skin
that can bear this world.”

May the new skin of Gospel peace clothe the nakedness of violence in our own hearts, in Nicaragua and around the world.

Joel Van Dyke
Director | Urban Training Collaborative

About The Author

Joel Van Dyke