We are called to participate in God’s redemptive plan and Christ’s mission of reconciliation.
The comprehensive scope of creation, sin and redemption is evident throughout the Biblical story and is central to our Biblical worldview. In the creation account we see God’s intention for all He created to live in harmony and peace. Creation shows humankind in right relationship with each other, with right self-image and in right relationship with the rest of creation. These right relationships are all held in perfect harmony through an undefiled primary relationship and intimacy with God.
Through the fall we see how all four of these relationships became sin affected and broken (Gen 3:11-24). The result of this disharmony was the emergence of human poverty, which is experienced as spiritual, physical, emotional/ psychological and social poverty. Humanity’s distorted image of themselves, and subsequent fractured relationships with each other, has led to inequality and injustice, which are the basis of all social disorders including material poverty.
In redemption, we see God’s plan for these four relationships to be restored, and for creation to once again exist in its original state of perfect harmony and peace (Rev 21:1-4). To establish this, God sent Christ to Earth, with a mission and a message of reconciliation, to restore all that sin has damaged and reconcile all of creation to God.
Just as the Father sent Christ incarnate into the world with this mission to holistically transform and reconcile creation to Him, so Christ has sent us (2 Cor 5:19). Christ’s mission is our mission, and his model informs the basis of our engagement strategy in both missions and development. Therefore our interaction with people and communities is characterised by love, humility and service, seeks to be incarnational and contextualised, and pursues the just reconciliation of all relationships and holistic transformation of lives, communities and societies.
Jesus modelled holistic engagement with humanity as he forgave sins, healed the sick, rebuked the oppressive systems of the day, restored the marginalised to their communities (such as the story of the lepers in Matt 8:1-4) and through the parables revealed the nature of the Kingdom of God.
So in replicating Christ’s model of reconciliation, we need to address human poverty from a holistic perspective:
• Spiritual reconciliation: providing opportunity for people to restore their relationship with God and reinstate the Lordship of Christ in their lives.
• Personal reconciliation: restoring our self-image and addressing issues of inferiority and superiority so we understand that we are equal creations of equal worth and value. This leads to reinstating the capabilities and empowering those who have been oppressed.
• Social reconciliation: restoring people to right relationship with each other, addressing injustice, inequality, oppression and reinstating the responsibility that we have to one another, our responsibility to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’ (Mark 12:31).
• Material and physical restoration: ensuring all have the opportunity to participate in the stewardship of creation (utilising and managing the earth’s resource for the good of all humanity) and can be sustained by creation.
Holistic development is then the process of transformation through which people are reconciled to right relationship with God, themselves, each other and the rest of creation. Subsequently the social, economic, and cultural issues of human poverty that resulted from these broken relationships can be addressed in communities. Such an approach to development is by nature holistic and is an ongoing journey of change, maturation and growth sustained throughout the duration of our lives.
Holistic development can be approached from an individual perspective through discipleship, where the individual engages in a process of transformation, which begins with spiritual development and evolves to address the individual’s interaction with others and the rest of creation.
Holistic development can also be approached from a community development perspective, where communities engage in collective action which builds solidarity and community capabilities. Communities may initially engage in collective action to address physical development, which in the process must also expand to include social, spiritual and personal development to address root causes, which are broken relationships.
Holistic and sustainable development is participating in God’s redemptive plan and Christ’s mission of reconciliation. It aims for the reconciliation of individuals within their relational context, resulting in broad reaching transformation in families and communities.