How do you stop a tidal wave?

Dandelion ClockEasy. You don’t.
You channel it, or re-direct it, or surf it.

Note: this is a metaphor. I say this in case someone decides to actually try this and then (if they survive) comes after me with their high-priced-lawyer-cousin-working-for-free claiming that my blog incited them to do something stupid.  🙂

A “human tidal wave” was the image used today at the Lausanne Global Diaspora Forum to describe the unprecedented numbers of people “on the move” — people who have voluntarily or involuntarily left their home countries and move elsewhere.  This has been a part of the human experience since time began, but never in such great numbers and with such rapid pacing.

The question is:  is this human tidal wave a part of God’s redemptive purposes, or is it the result of injustice and inequality?  Or could it be both?

I’ve been challenged to consider the place of scattering — dispersing, moving — in God’s unfolding story on planet earth.  Consider these thoughts:

  • in the beginning, God commissions humankind to fill the earth.  This implies movement — procreation, creativity, and scattering.
  • God called Abram to leave, go, and arrive.  Abram was a pilgrim.
  • God’s birthing of Israel was rooted in a rescue from slavery in a place and a journey to a new place of romise and shalom.
  • the Promised Land, granted, was an image of settledness.  But it was also to be a place of welcome to “the stranger”, and to all those who wished to become a part of the people of God.  So, God was pro-immigration.
  • in exile God’s people formed their canon of sacred history (which we now call the Old Testament) and developed a system of worship and faithful obedience that was not dependent on the Temple.  In other words, Judaism as we know it today was not formed in the Land, but in Exile.
  • the downward movement of Jesus (which Christians call kenosis ) seen in Philippians 2:7 is exactly that:  movement
  • the Christ-child was a refugee, fleeing the threat of death from Herod
  • Christ’s commission to His disciples after His resurrection was to “go”.  They tried to stay in Jerusalem and only “went” when persecution broke out
  • the growth of the New Testament church happens as a result of movement of  traders, business-people, vocational missionaries, and others who shared the Good News in the normal movement of their lives
  • much of the unfolding growth of the global Church over the past 2,000 years has been the result of people moving to new places

So, maybe “people on the move” is a more central part of God’s purposes than I had imagined.  Hence, the need to develop “diaspora theology” and “diaspora missiology”, which is exactly what this Forum is about.

No-one is arguing that the real pain of involuntary people-movements is something God likes or intends.  But maybe I need to stop seeing ONLY the brokenness and pain in today’s people-movements, and also see the hand of God in it.