Our last look at the Navigator Vision touched on communities being transformed by Jesus. The next part of the statement goes further: These communities are bringing joy and hope to their surrounding environments as relationships are healed and justice increases.
“Lord, help us help our neighbors!” It was a natural response when the heated argument of nearby neighbors recently interrupted my time with God.
My wife, Iris, and I are connected to these neighbors. We care about them and we are prayerfully trusting God to use us to bring joy and hope to their lives. Presently, we do this through prayer. Since we’ve become aware of tension in their marriage, we regularly stand for them before God’s throne and plead on their behalf. We pray that these challenges would move them toward Christ, and we stand ready to help with that as God gives opportunity.
We long to be used of God to bring “home improvement” to our community. Or as the Navigator Vision puts it, we want to see joy, hope, healing, and justice permeate the communities where we live and serve. If that is to happen, we must be involved in people’s lives. Over the past several decades, however, people have become so disconnected from natural, face-to-face interactions with the those around them. Many of our communities have fractured.
We’ve begun to live in a virtual environment. We have “friends” and followers whom we never see in the real world. Tweets replace talks; threads replace conversations. Instead of enjoying one another’s food, we “like” one another’s posts. We’ve strayed from places God has planted us in favor of virtual places—non-places.
In contrast, our Navigator vision pictures believing communities that are connected to the broader communities in which they are planted. Why? So that we can bring joy and hope to the people who live around us. God is definitely in the home improvement business!
Agents of Healing
One way to do this is by helping to heal relationships. When followers of Christ see conflict, we must move toward it, not hide from it.
Last year, we had our 12-unit townhouse complex painted. This required a great amount of coordination among about two dozen neighbors. Over the course of the summer, we saw conflicts between neighbors, between the neighbors and the painters, and between our complex and the surrounding neighbors.
Together with another believing couple, Iris and I had determined to be instruments of reconciliation. This was not easy, but it did make the summer more exciting. When the painters completed their work, we held a celebration barbecue. To see some of the very neighbors who had been in conflict laughing and enjoying one another’s company moved me deeply.
As the sun was going down, I encouraged our neighbors to look back at our newly painted townhomes. “Don’t they look beautiful?” I asked. They raised their glasses and cheered. I cheered as well, more about relational healing than freshly painted townhouses.
Agents of Justice
Our vision also speaks to our calling to promote justice. As the gospel advances in a place, justice increases. God instructs His people, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17, ESV). As we work to alleviate suffering and oppression in our part of the world—assuming we’ve connected to our place—it is like a “preview of coming attractions” to those who do not yet know Jesus.
At a recent gathering of believing couples in our community, one mom reported that her child’s elementary school had become racially segregated. She recounted how the “gifted” program had resulted in two tracks at the school: the “gifted,” who were almost all white and came from other parts of the city, and the “local” students who were mainly from minority ethnic groups.
Our group is grieved that the children of color at this school are getting a subtle message that white students are more gifted and therefore deserve smaller class sizes and nicer books and materials. We each committed to do what we can to alleviate the unfair distribution of resources. Iris and I are not sure what our part is in this, but we know that we can no longer remain on the sidelines, not after hearing from our neighbor who feels alone in this struggle.
Those of us who are part of the majority culture in the United States need to learn when to speak up and when to listen silently. When people tell us about experiencing injustice, we need to assume a posture of listening and learning.
On the other hand, we must have the courage to speak up when we observe injustice taking place. Tragic incidents of violence and racist remarks reported in the national media open the door to meaningful conversations with neighbors who may have differing views. Our silence during such times makes a loud statement to our brothers and sisters of color.
There is a time to listen silently and a time to speak out. I pray that God would give us the discernment, discipline, and courage to take the appropriate action at the right times. An earlier sentence in our vision gives us a way forward: We must be people who are fragrant with humility and the aroma of Christ.
Key words in this portion of our vision are hope, joy, relationships, and justice. We desperately need an influx of these Kingdom qualities. It’s pretty difficult to bring these to the virtual world. But maybe, just maybe, God will use us to bring such “home improvement” to the people in our real communities.
For Your Consideration:
Are you aware of any conflict in your neighborhood? How might you become an agent of reconciliation?
What kinds of injustice are present in your community? Ask God how He might want you to become involved.
Beside promoting healing and justice, what other ways can believers bring joy and hope to the people around us?
Al Engler is the director of Nav Neighbors. To contact him or to learn more about his ministry, click here.
Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles unpacking the Navigator vision. The series begins with Unpacking Our Vision: An Introduction.