A Manifesto for Christian Service

Like most who call ministry a career, my pastime that came to a crossroads some time ago has now taken a definitive turn in a definitive direction. I’m glad. But it has meant that I had to let go of some very valuable things…actually it’s a process and I’m not there yet. You can refer to it.

Ever since I was abused in the first three years of my training (1984-1986), I have made a solemn resolution to be a lawyer. I was often appreciated in this role, but not always. And I haven’t always cast the role right, in the right way, or at the right time, but my heart has struggled to be true.

My first career, which I always thought was an advocacy role, was in occupational safety and health – Prevention and recovery from injuries and diseases. I’ve always felt that identifying and mitigating risk is critical to my role. Everyone has the right to go home in one piece. I built systems and processes, audited compliance, trained practitioners in psychology and systems, responded to industrial scale emergencies, and investigated and analyzed incidents. I was trained to find system faults and make an effort to understand the human factors that caused losses. That made sense. Eliminate the repeatable patterns by reducing the severity of damaging events and the likelihood of their recurrence. Risk management in a nutshell.

The safety and health role had components of proactivity to prevent incidents – before something went wrong – and reactivity for troubleshooting incidents – when something actually went wrong.

My second career that I consider myself a lawyer is as a minister (broadly) within the Christian environment (which now extends beyond the church) also has a proactive and reactive focus.

The proactive focus is on the peace ministry PeaceWise. The reactive comes from what I learn and have learned through counseling practice and through my own negative relationship experiences. Rather, the reactive is where relationships become toxic, often beyond the reach of peacemaking. The reactive includes abuse and trauma. Peacemaking requires sane minds willing to dare the idols of the heart to which we all bow. Both are required in a concerted effort to restore the imbalances created by and through conflict.

Now, this may surprise you, but Christians don’t behave like Christians should – we behave like the sinners that we are. This creates problems that we need to address.

Often people don’t realize they did something wrong and think it’s all the other person’s fault. That’s almost the norm. Through peacemaking principles, many can see their own contribution and this enables them to be reconciled with their aggrieved party; to restore the balance that was once a feature of the relationship, or even create a superior sense of balance for mutual satisfaction.

Occasionally, however, no matter how much help is given, one or more people may or may not feel guilty at all. This polarizes conflict and we enter the arena of abuse.

The proactive work is to equip Christians to negotiate conflict before it encounters it so they can have a restorative impact on their relationships. Reactive work consists of helping those who have been hurt, traumatized and scarred by either a conflict that turns out to be fixable or irreparable. Here I recognize the right of every human being to feel healed and to be at peace in life.

This service manifest describes what I do. I do what I do because we are all equal under God. Yet, whether accidentally or intentionally, people act as if they are more equal to God than others.

In conflict we become unequal, and where relationships are out of whack, life is wrong.

Christ came so that through him we might be reconciled to God. I continue this call again in a manifesto of commitment to the goal of “righteousness and justice and equity, every good way” (Proverbs 2:9) for all.