Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Kathy Hanson on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Kathy’s local newspaper is The Ames Tribune. Here is Kathy Hanson on the Good News. She entitles this entry – The Gospel Bears Fruit.

THE GOOD NEWS

There’s a community of radical inclusion in my town. It’s called Beyond Welfare, because it arose from the experience of women who formed a support group while they were on welfare. Through the experience, they realized to break the cycle of poverty, people need deeply reciprocal relationships that define them by their strengths instead of their deficiencies.

For nearly 15 years, the BW community has helped people, especially those who have never experienced poverty, to become conscious they all need “money, meaning and friends,” and that the healthiest relationships are formed in a community based on forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration and reciprocity.

By embracing all people, especially those marginalized by race, habituated into poverty, coming out of prison, and ostracized for their sexual orientation or developmental challenges, BW practices the attitudes of the beatitudes, grows the fruit of the spirit and transforms lives.

It’s like it has Jesus’ fingerprints all over it. And like Jesus’ life and ministry, it embodies a critique of the dominant practices of society, politics and religion.

But.

It ’s not affiliated with any church and Jesus’ name is never used.

So I’m perplexed.

What would Jesus say about BW’s relationship to the gospel?

The question brings to mind one of the most bizarre stories in the Bible: the one where Jesus curses a fig tree for not bearing fruit.

It’s baffling, because he curses the tree even though it’s too early in the season for figs.

Some sources suggest that in the spring certain varieties of fig trees bear small precursors of the true figs that come later. But if a fig tree leafs out without the early fruit, it’s a sign there’ll be no figs. Since the tree Jesus found had “nothing but leaves,” he knew it would not be bearing fruit.

The gospel teaches that trusting and following Jesus results in a life transformed, through forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration-all of which make life fruitful.

But the goal of this fruitfulness is not just personal piety or assurance for the after life; it’s to build a new kind of community in this world.

In John’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem before the Last Supper, Jesus said if the people didn’t praise him, the stones would cry out.

What if, instead of stones crying out to praise Jesus, all the praise he wants is faithful people following his teaching, which through him, transforms lives and builds his kind of community?

I wonder if we’re so busy making the gospel a work of correct doctrine, we’re missing the point of its transforming relationships?

I’ve been involved in the BW community for more than a year. Often, I’m more aware of the power of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection when I attend its weekly meal and meeting than I am in a church that can be brittle in its certainty of who’s saved and who isn’t.

My questions are not merely rhetorical. I seriously wonder, if Jesus came to some of our churches, would he recognize the gospel? Would he find more leaves than fruit? What would he have to say about the places his name isn’t spoken but his teachings are followed and the fruit of his spirit is abundant?

Kathy Hanson is taking a hiatus from blogging at Beyond Words because she’s too busy as a wife, mother of six, grandmother of two, newspaper reporter, piano teacher, and deep lover of the kind of community to which Jesus calls us, to do it justice right now. A member of Stonebrook Church, she’s currently board president of Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance, Inc. in Ames an agency formed by faith groups who pool their recourses to help people in need. Kathy’s community newspaper is the Ames Tribune, where she works as the higher education reporter, covering everything to do with Iowa State University. She dreams of writing a book on spiritual formation in community.


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