Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tikkun Olam

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about God’s plan for the world and for us as Christians. In thinking and reading different ideas about this I’ve been drawn toward the ancient Jewish concept of healing the world; ‘Tikkun Olam’. I’ve read several articles about it; some by Christians, some by Jewish scholars, some by I’m not sure who. There are different Ideas about it. The word means, most simply, ‘healing the world.’ Some people believe that God is the only one that can heal the world, some believe He chooses to use us sometimes, some people think He’s given the responsibility to us completely. There are ideas that Tikkun Olam is about restoring the world to what it was before the curse in Genesis 1 and 2 and there are ideas that it will be much, much better than that or at least different.

All of these ideas have a lot to offer our thinking. They vary so much on the little dogmatic differences, which are by no means unimportant. But one thing remains at the center, the heart of this concept; God hasn’t given up on this place.

Last night we went to Rock Harbor Church where they were premiering two new NOOMAs (videos by Rob Bell… you’ve gotta see one.) Rob came up afterward and talked for a while. He said something very profound about some of the popular theologies going around. He referred to these ideas as “evacuation theology.” He called it evacuation theology because they see real spirituality as getting out of this place someday; leaving here and going “somewhere else and you won’t get left behind.” Then he said something that has stayed with me all morning… “And we wonder why evangelicals don’t give to aids in Africa.” It’s because if you believe that we are saved to someday go somewhere else then you have no reason to care anything about anyone here. If it’s all about the future or some other place then it has nothing to do with compassion. These “evacuation theologies” are completely contrary to Jesus message, which Rob said is, “I’m thirsty, give me a drink.” Jesus understood real spirituality as going to the darkest places in the world, where there is the most pain and suffering, and “wrapping our arms around it” with the hope that God has not given up on us. Jesus went to the darkest places and ate with the darkest people and he was God.

Today in one of my classes, Amy Jacober; my professor told us that while she was in social work it was in the code of ethics to cater to spiritual needs… it’s in the code of ethics. Why is it that it’s not unethical if the only thing a pastor caters to is the spiritual needs of his church? The “unspiritual” world takes value in the spiritual, why then does the Church not take value in the “unspiritual?” It was that same professor who once said “hope is a non-negotiable,” every Christian has hope or they are not a Christian. That doesn’t mean they always feel it but it’s at the center of their theology. “Hope is a non-negotiable.”

We have over spiritualized hope.

Hope has become so distorted that it has become far from hopeful. Hope, for many evangelicals, is that there is some place waiting for us after death… it’s not too hopeful for the world. To them there is no answer for hunger but death, no answer for pain but death, no answer for oppression but death. Last night Rob said “with Jesus death didn’t have the last word, hope and love had the last word.” Jesus began something great and defeated death. Lives were changed and there was hope.

I hope death doesn’t have the last word with us.

Tikkun Olam is about hope. God has not abandoned this world, He’s restoring it, renewing it. If Tikkun Olam was something we took seriously then there wouldn’t be this lingering question about who’s going to heaven and who’s going to Hell, there wouldn’t be this obsession with being saved. We would worry less about what we don’t have and more about what we do have. We’d care more about what we can give, what we can do; not out of obligation or desire for reward not with an agenda to convince or to persuade but simply to make this place what it would be if God was completely glorified and it was restored. We wouldn’t be so self consumed. We wouldn’t be so agitated by simple, superficial annoyances like traffic and slow service at Starbucks.

Also, Tikkun Olam is not about working for our salvation or working toward some unachievable goal. Tikkun Olam actually means it’s going to happen, that’s what hope is. We don’t just talk about it but we believe it will happen. God is redeeming everything…

Everything.

6 comments:

Ashley said...

I have never understood why so many people focus so much on what happens to us when we die, sure we are not "dead" (which is another post for another day, hehehe) but heck as far as we are concerned with life today, I could care less what happens to me past this life. (this is not the extent of my theological beliefs, so don't worry). God put us on this earth for a reason, and I have a hard time believing that it was just so we could die. Tikkun Olam is such a beautiful thing. I love what you quoted from Rob the other night, if I am thirsty give me water. This is what the world needs, not their post funeral plans. Great thoughts Wes, you got me thinking on this one!

Kat Brandt said...

"Jesus understood real spirituality as going to the darkest places in the world, where there is the most pain and suffering, and 'wrapping our arms around it'."

Christians need to stop beating people over the head with theology, doctrines, and even the Bible and they need to understand what Jesus did.... loved people! Love. Just love. Not Bible-thumping, not condeming, but really loving.
Ephesians 5.8 calls us to be children of light. What is more logical than taking light into a dark place? Why can most of us not grasp even that?

Fantastic post. A think-starter. Be careful, Wes. You might start getting people involved with the greater Hope of the World!

Dolores said...

This message was refreshing. I am somewhat of a "news" addict and lately that has been even more discouraging than usual. Between the suicide bombings, killing of children in one way or another, deception, and overall moral decadence there is so much darkness. To focus on the "hereafter" can almost be an escape from the unthinkable things that are going on; although a cowardly escape, I can almost understand the tendancy. My resolve to be a light in the darkness is renewed by your words. With so much darkness, the Light of the World can only shine brighter...can only be more noticeable. As the concept of a restored world seems less and less attainable to my human mind, I can only appreciate even more that God will never give up. I am honored to have been given the responsibility of reflecting His light. I anxiously wait to know where He wants me to help with the healing. I hope to see you there!


"Be still and know that I am God."

WES ELLIS said...

Mom (Dolores), you might might be on to something... "With so much darkness, the Light of the World can only shine brighter...can only be more noticeable." If this statement is true then when we're talking about so much darkness in the world the logical question is 'is the light shining at all?' because where there is darkness light is more appretiated. Why are there so many places with so little light. We shouldn't be so focused on how dark the dark is but how dim the light is. We shouldn't point fingers at the darkness because the only reason there is darkness is because of lack of light. if darkness is pain and light is healing then when we doubt that we can achieve this goal of healing we only allow the pain to settle in and take over.

Maryellen said...

Hey, Pastor Art's mother's name is Doloras too. Are you brothers? :)
Kat, I don't agree that Jesus did no condemning or Bible Thumping. He pointed the spiritual leaders of the people back to the Scriptures many times. But I agree with everything else you said.
The first commandment mankind was ever given was to be fruitful, multiply, and take care of the world we had been given. (my paraphrase). Man is sinful by nature, but when we are saved, we are restored to the Genesis one state, and that first commandment becomes our number one responsiblity. To be fruitful (the fruit of the spirit), to multiply (make disciples - so that the work can be done) and to take care of the world. I don't feel the world will never be fully restored until the second coming. But that doesn't mean that we can just sit back and wait for that to happen. Good post Wes!

Pastor Art said...

Our place of stewardship is to be implemented here and now. As restored people, restored back to the Garden’s state of responsibility and authority the Earth and all that is in it is under our sphere of creativity and custodianship. Yes the Earth is under the curse of sin, as such it will continue to disintegrate into what science calls heat death, from their definition of sin’s influence upon the Earth 2nd Law of thermodynamics. The only way that this will change is for “outside the system” intervention. We who are within the system are also under the death influence. Therefore we as well as the ecosystem -Earth degenerate. The result limits man even though we are the foremost of creation, we still become less then we were since the time of Adam. Each generation digresses in every aspect. The deception is that man is increasing the world - view of “evolutionary creation” has so permeated even the Churches thinking we can not discern this. Part of the problem rests here. The church - for the most part in rejection of “naturalism” says we will soon be outa’ here why bother. The Scripture’s do not teach that! If we are truly restored and strangers not residents of the current earth’s system we understand His restorative return. However, if we are truly placed here to expand the Kingdom of Heaven then that includes the bringing into the world the pattern of the Garden while we occupy as best as we can. This picture reveals life more abundantly - Shalom!

This fact or set of facts does not absolve us who are in Christ from our stewardship responsibilities. The difference is that as we act to correct what we can, we know that our action will not bring about restoration only a bolstering of the inevitable until Christ returns to “make a new heaven and a new earth”.
Pastor Art