In the church I grew up in, there was only one way to follow Jesus: pray, read your Bible, and attend church. Nothing else mattered on the road to heaven.
When, as a college student, I learned about God’s heart for justice, I discovered another way to follow Jesus. This was also narrowly defined: love your neighbors and resist oppression. Transform the world and bring about the kingdom. Again, nothing else mattered in my quest to be a “good” Christian.
But the heart of God, as recorded in Scripture and as lived out in the life of Jesus, has room for nuance, complexity, and balance. Jesus healed and he rested. He turned tables and he played with children. He taught sermons and he attended parties. These were not two distinct sides of the incarnated God; they were one integrated whole. Prayer led to faithful service led to rest led to healing led to celebration, and so on.
As people made in the image of God, we are also meant to be integrated beings who embody the both/and of contemplative activism. We commune with God through prayer, Scripture, worship, and meditation; we also engage with the world as people grounded in our identity and as active restorers of shalom. We are fully present to the needs of the world, while also being fully connected to spiritual restorative work that is in process but not yet realized. We love our neighbors, our enemies, and ourselves; we speak truth to power and we listen empathetically; we agitate for change and we joyfully celebrate the good and beautiful around us. Only through this integrated approach can we faithfully and humbly sustain the call to be ambassadors of God’s love, grace, and justice.
The typical way of the world is to pick one path and stick to it. But that often leads to pride and narrow-mindedness. The way of contemplative activism calls us to a deeper, fuller, richer human experience, in which the sacred and the material, the being and the doing, the other and the self, intermingle and balance and nurture us to become humans who are fully alive with love, joy, conviction, and purpose.
Choosing the way of contemplative activism is not simple or easy. But for peacemakers intent on furthering shalom, it is the most meaningful, powerful, and God-honoring way of transformation–for ourselves, for others, and for the world.
I hope you’ll join us in learning from the collective wisdom of the contributors to this StoryArc, as expressed through essays, stories, visual art, and poetry. We invite you to also try the contemplative practices included in each path point. May God give us patience and courage, love and selflessness, as we pursue his kingdom today.