Our second Guerrilla Pastor shares a little bit of how his understanding of the Gospel changed while he watched events unfold on the word stage.
 Gospel as Reconciliation ft. Pastor Eric Paul – Guerrilla Pastors
Listen to our recent episode and take a look at what our guest had to say when asked “What did you wish you said in our interview but didn’t?”
Eric Paul on the Gospel being Non-Violent:
I am thankful to be given the opportunity to share a little more than what was shared in the podcast. While the Guerrilla Podcast gave an opportunity to share about the evolution of the gospel in my life, I did want to talk more concretely about what that means for living as if the Gospel is true; which for me, exists within the practice of Christian nonviolence within the ecclesial community.
1). Nonviolent love is the ethic of the cross. The evangelical faith of my youth made it too easy to accept the work of Jesus on the cross as something Jesus does for me; rather than Christ’s work on the cross as a calling of nonviolent resistance to systems of violence and a turning toward the transforming love of God revealed through death and resurrection. When we think of Gospel only in personal terms, it become too easily hijacked by the powers of the world. To put it more simply, the work of the cross is not just something God does for us, but is the means by which God reconciles all things to God’s self. To see the Gospel through the lens of nonviolent love – God’s ultimate NO to the violent pattern of this world and the holy transformation of people and communities – requires a reimagining of how we understand and engage systems of violence that cause harm: racism, ecological degradation, mass incarceration, war, gun violence, poverty, and capitalism. Seeing the Gospel from a foundation of nonviolence requires a radical critique of the narratives that hold much of our imagination captive. It cuts through any allegiance to political party or nation-state, and simply directs our loyalty only to life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2). When I talk about my hope in resurrection, it is not an abstract hope in theological categories. Rather, I am filled with hope every time a congregation chooses to engage the conflicts that arise in their congregations and communities. But if we’re honest, Pastors in general have not been taught or well equipped to manage conflict in healthy ways. Too often, our churches choose to avoid or withdraw from conflicts. When we are confronted with stories that challenge our adopted positions, whether around issues of racism, sexuality, immigration, or Christian nationalism, we tend to either stick our head in the sand (avoid) or put our fists up (a defensive posture that remains difficult to simultaneously show love). Neither of these postures follow the Biblical injunction to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1). We should understand these hard conversations as opportunities for growth. Conflict itself is not a sin. It is how we engage conflict that matters. Conflict can become a catalyst for incredible growth in grace.
Last year, I worked with a church that didn’t know how to move forward. Years of not dealing with issues of race and racism, and the hurt and pain it caused to families, bubbled to the surface. The pastor, rather than sweeping it aside, invited me and a co-facilitator trained in restorative justice, to lead their congregation through a weekend long conversation. We knew that three things had to happen in order for wrongs or injustices to be overcome:
- The truth must be acknowledged
- Equity needs to be restored
- Future Intentions need to be addressed
We sat in a circle together and talked through the pain of racist behavior and the impact it had on brothers and sisters in Christ. But we didn’t stay stuck in that pain; instead, we moved forward together to talk about how the church could change and make sure it didn’t happen again. The weekend proved to be a transformational moment for the church, as well as a space in which forgiveness and reconciliation became more tangible. When I speak of the hope of resurrection, I think about this work. I hope in the resurrection from the dead because so many of our communities need a glimpse of the shalom community in practice. And that’s why I worked to build a toolset to help communities in conflict; whether through training, facilitating conflicts, or coaching. The Gospel is about reconciliation; and so is the mission of the church. It’s time we practice it.
Listen to Eric’s full interview by clicking one of the links below!
And finally, here is our round table response to Eric’s interview: