At a job I had many years ago I discovered at some point that I was known as “that crazy christian guy.” The person delivering this news to me was not trying to hurt me so I wasn’t offended but I did consider being offended. I didn’t like being called “crazy” and I didn’t like having a reputation I didn’t know about. After I got over my initial surprise I actually settled comfortably into the epithet. My christian-ness could be the craziness, and in that very post-christian place I was pretty weird to be such a Jesus-y guy. I probably set myself up for the reputation from square one when the interviewing committee asked me why I wanted to do this work and I said that Jesus compelled me to work for justice (it was a justice focused non-profit).
I’m thinking of this because last week I gave a similar answer when my new friend, Nick, from CeasefirePA asked me why I was interested in gun violence prevention legislation. I told him that Jesus told us to love our enemies and I want to make it harder for us to shoot them instead. I kind of put my Circle of Hope peeps on the line, but it’s okay because I know what sort of people they are. I told him that we were 600 people who wanted to do something about what Jesus said about peacemaking.
I was meeting with Nick to deliver some petitions that I had gotten signed at a community event at Chew Playground (19th and Washington) a couple of weeks before. It was “Family Fun and Safety Day” on Washington Avenue. I decided to rep Circle of Hope by asking people to sign petitions designed to move the Harrisburg legislators to make gun violence prevention a priority in Pennsylvania. Everyone in Point Breeze and beyond wanted to sign it. I told them about Circle of Hope’s and Jesus’ desire to be peacemakers and invited them to our meetings.
I want us to be known as peacemakers. I want Jesus to be known as a peacemaker. That’s so much more attractive than his more common reputation among those not connected to him. People who aren’t christians think Christians are 1) judgmental, 2) hypocritical and 3) obsessed with how people do and do not have sex. You could parse those three issues out forever, but I want the transformative power of Jesus to be known in our world, and I’m sick of fighting about those three things with Christians and non Christians alike. I want peace for one thing! And I want so much more beside! Can’t we steer the conversation some and let people know what Jesus and his people at Circle of Hope are really about?
Circle of Hope is starting a discernment process for what specifically we feel God calling us to do in 2014 and beyond. I am feeling more and more strongly that we need to be known for our compassionate work. We need to make sure Jesus gets the credit for the good work we do and we need to conspire to do goodness in his name that will attract people to our cause, which is Jesus’ redemption of the world.