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Good News to Change the World: An Interview with Lisa Sharon Harper

PneumaReview.com: Justice for the marginalized in our society is very important to you. Why is this part of the calling of every Jesus-follower? How can church leaders embody justice through their work?

Lisa Sharon Harper: Every single human being is made in the image God and, therefore, has the divine call and capacity to exercise dominion—to steward the world. The construct of race was created to do one thing: to define and limit who could exercise dominion on particular land. Wherever colonization laid its talons the construct of race was established to ensure, protect, and maintain European dominance and control of land and resources. In effect, racial categorization established and protected white supremacy.

Consider this: Is it possible to live under the reign of God while simultaneously diminishing, ignoring, or crushing the image of God on earth? The answer is “No!”

The church must actively work to protect, serve and cultivate the image of God and, hence, the ability of all people to exercise dominion in every corner of every town, in every city and every nation on earth. That work must not be limited to that which individual churches, denominations, and non-profits can do. All of these efforts are good and needed. But millions of crushed images of God are not reached by those localized efforts. The church must work to free the image of God from oppression and poverty levied by local, state-based, national and international public policy and business practices. That is what citizenship in the Kingdom of God requires.

 

PneumaReview.com: How would you relate your work with the traditional emphasis Pentecostals and other Evangelicals place on the Great Commission?

Lisa Sharon Harper: At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and began the reversal of the broken relatedness of the Fall in Genesis 3. Whereas at the Tower of Babel languages were confused and the people were scattered, at Pentecost the people were together and different languages were no longer a barrier to mutual understanding. And immediately the women were empowered to lead the church through prophetic leadership. Then we meet Priscilla (the lead evangelist) and Aquilla (her husband) and later we meet Junia (an apostle). And, immediately, the Spirit led those Pentecostal followers of the Jesus way to share all things in common so that the image of God in all who had need under oppressive Roman rule would be restored.

Then, in Galatians 3:27-29, Paul establishes the first baptismal liturgy when he declares an end to the power differentials established by empire and tradition. In Christ there are no power differentials. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. All are one in Christ. But how are all one? We are one in that we all bear the image of God. We have all been called and created with capacity to serve, protect and cultivate the world.

If this is true, then the Great Commission takes on fresh meaning. The mission is not to simply get as many people as possible a pass into heaven. It is to change the world. The Great Commission is Jesus’ charge to make disciples that understand and emulate his teaching and action that confronted the kingdoms of men and rescued the image of God on earth, restoring God’s reign on earth.

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Category: Fall 2017, Ministry

About the Author: Lisa Sharon Harper is a speaker, author, writer, and activist. From Ferguson to New York to Germany and South Africa, Ms. Harper leads trainings and helps mobilize clergy and community leaders around shared values for the common good. She is the founder and president of FreedomRoad.us (launching online Fall 2017), a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap in our nation by convening forums and experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment, and common action toward a just world. Ms. Harper is the author of several books, including Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican...or Democrat (The New Press, 2008), Left Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Elevate, 2011 & 2016), Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Zondervan, 2014), and the critically acclaimed, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong can be Made Right (Waterbrook, a division of Penguin Random House, 2016). The Very Good Gospel, recognized as the "2016 Book of the Year" by Englewood Review of Books, explores God’s intent for the wholeness of all relationships in light of today’s headlines. LisaSharonHarper.com. Facebook. Twitter: @LisaSHarper. Instagram.

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