I’ve been sitting with Mark 10:17-31.
Jesus’ invitation/challenge to Peter mirrors God’s invitation/challenge to Abram (Genesis 12) to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household –
those things in which have given him a story;
a story that has given him an identity;
an identity that has given him security;
security that has given him confidence to become a wealthy in possessions and ownership of others and livestock –
and to step-into the story of God; there to receive an identity, identity that will give him security, security that will give him confidence to trust God for a new land, a new nation, a new name, that through him God would bless all the peoples of the earth.
Jesus’ invitation/challenge to Peter is to leave wealth, and home, and family, and fields, in order to step-into the story of God; so to receive them back in a new way, through which – Peter would come to understand – all peoples would be blessed as we enter-into the work of all things being reconciled by and in and through Jesus, the one killed by men and exalted by God.
What, then, is Jesus’ invitation/challenge to us, in relation to these things?
Kevin Lewis writes well on the political discourse of the ‘hardworking’ here. Some will want to agree that we cannot simply divide between ‘hardworking’ and ‘lazy,’ but the underlying assumptions run so deep that we feel the need to differentiate between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor (less readily between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ rich).
Jesus’ invitation/challenge: no-one in need.
We believe in the ‘property ladder’ – the need to buy a house, in order to buy a bigger house – as the most desirable aspiration, while recognising that the ladder is, at this moment in time, somewhat congested. We believe that “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” We have found something new to believe: that it is better for adult children that they do not leave home; that as parents we never lose a duty to protect our children from the world. This is justified by the perceived financial cost of leaving (ignoring the hidden financial costs of staying). We have a generation of parents who are afraid to discover who they are post the parenting stage of life, and who have kept their children as children in adult bodies; and a generation of young adults who are afraid to discover who they are post the parented stage of life, and who prolong their adolescence in an unprecedented way. This is a most frightening co-dependency. I am quite sure that this will sound harsh to some, but I’d ask you, take a long, honest look around you.
Jesus’ invitation/challenge: home as rest on the journey, Sabbath celebration, place to extend hospitality.
We have moved from the extended family as primary unit (not just biological; those in domestic service functioned as extended family. Note that extended family is stronger than other forms, but no less dysfunctional: I’m not advocating it) through the nuclear family as primary unit (probably 1950s-1980s) to the atomic family. Of course we still see both extended and nuclear family structures, but the primary unit is now the individual, making temporary combinations, with commitment to self taking priority over commitment to others.
Jesus’ invitation/challenge: to be part of God’s family, the gift of a large family, recognising one another.
We believe in food production, a term that has undertones of the factory; that demands maximum efficiency; that denies food as God’s provision. We demand that the field be a place of exploitation, where the supermarkets extort food from farmers at below-cost because we do not want to pay a fair price. This year – drought in the spring, floods in the summer – our fields in this country have become places of devastation, with unusual if not unprecedented crop failure. We fight against the warnings that present climate change is to a significant degree the consequence of our own pursuit of power (in more than one sense) and convenience.
Jesus’ invitation/challenge: fields are a reminder to us of our connectedness to everything else; of God’s provision; and of his setting limits on the consequences of our sin (yes, there are consequences) (Genesis 3:17-19). All things are being reconciled by and in and through Jesus. How might we take responsibility for fields without owning the land?
How might we help one another leave false constructions of wealth, home, family, and fields, and receive – by participating in – a new construction of these things, which is in both quantity and quality ‘a hundred times’ greater?
[Two pitfalls to avoid: understanding the 100x to relate to our existing false constructions, and so reinforcing them by acquisition; and spiritualising ‘wealth, home, family, and fields,’ so failing to follow Jesus in his reconstruction of these embodied things.]