As I said yesterday, eleven adults (and one child of the revolution) spent Sunday afternoon speaking to the folks around St Paul's. We took about 100 bible books (mainly Romans but also some Gospels) and got into dozens of conversations. There were also some brief opportunities for open air preaching.
Before Sunday I wrote ideas of what to say (many of which I used). Here are some other reflections:
- Everyone I spoke to expressed deep respect for Jesus. Of course they wanted Jesus to be their mascot for the protest, but nonetheless there was a knowledge of the Gospels and some Christian-ish background to protestor after protestor.
- Very few could articulate exactly what they wanted to happen, but their sense that things have to change was, of course, palpable.
- Speaking of eternity was a real eye-opener for some. The whole 'let's try communism for a thousand years' fired the imagination. These guys are idealists, but actually Christians have a real utopia that frees us from greed now and enables us to be generous today. It's a bit like the slogan, think global, act local. Christians can think of an assured future and therefore act today.
- The most fruitful lines of conversation followed the "why" question. I kept asking: "And then what?... And then what?... And then what?" Imagine that everyone gets their acre of land, imagine if its free education and health-care for all, imagine there's equality of wealth... and then what? One guy said "Well then we'll stop being so envious." "Ah, so it's a heart problem then?" I replied. "If it's a heart problem, legislation and force is not going to solve it, is it? It might actually exacerbate the envy mightn't it?"
- The most eye-opening lines of enquiry followed the "how" question. The word "expropriate" was used on literature to describe what some want to do with the wealth of the 1%. I was speaking to a guy who grew up in church (in fact he grew up in St Thomas's North Sydney - my old Sydney church!) - he was a Christian communist who made excellent points from the Bible about usury. But when I pressed him on what it meant to "expropriate" wealth he said "Well they're not going to give it up freely, we'll have to take it." "By force?" I ask. "Well let's hope it doesn't come to war, but, if it's necessary...." "Well then, you've abandoned the way of Jesus, haven't you?"
- Christ's revolution is utterly unique - it is thoroughly non-violent and (partly because of this) it goes much deeper than societal structures. Yet, perhaps counter-intuitively, it has been the one global force to actually affect societal structures in positive ways down through the centuries.
- Josh V-B asked the excellent question to this Christian communist "Was Jesus' first coming a success?" Not just, 'Did it plant the seed of an idea for social reform' but did His coming and dying actually accomplish something. Because Jesus said it did!
- This moves the conversation out of the realm of "What would Jesus do" to "What has Jesus done."
- What He's done has been to obliterate the old structures totally and to rise up again at the head of a new world. This is the real revolution.
- A couple of times I had the opportunity of speaking publicly and declaring "St Paul's manifesto for change! Let me read to you St Paul's statement. It's on the public record, and we have free copies if you want one. Listen to St Paul's public announcement... Then I'd preach on 2 Cor 8:9 or 1 Tim 6:10, speak of Jesus and then offer copies of Romans afterwards. These proved very popular.
- When I had the opportunity to preach I should have preached longer. I was aware of taking up the microphone, not knowing who was scheduled to be next and not being a particularly welcome voice. But that's street preaching! Next time!
- This kind of evangelism is much more like speaking to people of other faiths than it is like open air work to random shoppers. These guys have entrenched positions and have plenty to say for themselves. I didn't feel like I got as far yesterday as I get when we evangelise the town centre on a Saturday. (HINT: Get evangelising your town centres, it can be very fruitful indeed!)
- Nonetheless, the name of Jesus is being used here - a lot. And it's being used publicly, very publicly. Therefore it's important that His people stand up and proclaim His true revolutionary message to the world.