This is the second in a series of four posts entitled 2nd Mile 101. Our mission is to seek to see the Gospel renew lives and communities so they are transformed in every way. We hope these writings can help answer the questions of who 2nd Mile is and why we do what we do the way we do it.
To understand the existence and mission of 2nd Mile Ministries one needs to go all the way back to the beginning. No, not to 2004 when Articles of Incorporation were filed. No, not to the 1960s when a series of social, political, and economic forces combined to entrench poverty in the Brentwood community. No, not to some other flashpoint in American history. We must go all the way back to the very beginning. To Genesis chapter 1.
In the beginning, God created all things and he created them in relationship. One helpful way to conceptualize this is to picture the biblical Adam and the relationships he encountered. Adam was in relationship with God, with Eve (and eventually other people), with creation, and in a relationship with his own self through his thoughts and emotions. Further, as time went on and the population expanded, humanity came to be in relationship with systems and structures such as education, religion, government, financial, and so forth.
And in the beginning, all of these relationships were good. In fact, as the author narrates the creation the word “good” is used six times with the final proclamation as God looks his work over that it is “very good”. The Hebrew Bible concept of shalom describes this initial state or as Tim Keller puts it: “God created all things to be in a beautiful, harmonious, interdependent, knitted, webbed relationship to one another . . . This interwovenness is what the Bible calls shalom, or harmonious peace.”
In the beginning, all things stood right. All things flourished. And there was no such thing as poverty. But, the interconnected state of shalom did not remain. Soon, shalom was vandalized and all of these relationships began the break down.
Adam’s intimacy with God was replaced with fear. A breakdown of relationship.
Adam’s knit relationship with his wife became blame-shifting and accusation. A breakdown of relationship.
Adam’s peaceful relationship with work, the garden, and creation became one of toil, frustration, and danger. A breakdown of relationship.
Adam’s previously undisturbed inner life became fraught with shame. A breakdown of relationship.
And these relationships have continued to erode. Our world is marked by a profound sense of brokenness. People are separated from God. Family and neighbor relationships bare the more visible marks of discord like in-fighting, separation, and betrayal, but also the more subtle sins like gossip or the cold shoulder. Similar breakings mark our relationships with creation, work, self, and systems. Nothing works the way that it ought to. A sense of exile pervades the universe, even in good times, we feel that all these things just aren’t what they could or should be.
And all of this brings us closer to why 2nd Mile exists. We need to understand this vandalism of shalom if we are to ever understand how it can be undone. For the reality is that, yes, Brentwood, the community where 2nd Mile labors, is faced by poverty, but when properly situated we must understand that all of creation is faced with poverty. The material poverty of a community like Brentwood is just one element of a much greater breakdown of the way things ought to be. If our eyes are really opened, there is no place on this earth we can go and not see evidence of how these relationships have been broken and damaged.
But, the story does not end there, this is the good news and this is why 2nd Mile exists. For in Colossians 1:19-20 a path forward is announced:
“For God was pleased to have all of his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
In Christ, God is reconciling all things and all relationships, back to himself. Our relationship with God is to be healed. Our horizontal relationship to one another is to be healed. Our relationship with creation, with self, and even one day, our broken systems are all to be healed. And how has he done this work? By the cross. The same cross that secured God’s people eternal life and a personal relationship with our God is the cross that promises to bring about healing in all of the brokenness of the Fall. In the cross, there is a promise that whatever ails Brentwood and every other community has a remedy.
Further still, Jesus has commanded his followers to be a part of this mission. As He commanded us to pray for his Kingdom to come, so too, He has equipped every person who trusts in Christ to be an agent of transformation and proclaimer of the Victory of the Cross in every space they inhabit. Grander still, He has promised that the flourishing state of shalom, where God makes his dwelling with men and He is making all things new, is where our final home will be.
Therefore, being people who are called by and who know how the story ends, we are privileged to be able to live into this narrative even today. Though the complete fulfillment of shalom will not take place immediately, we, as citizens of heaven, can start living as agents of redemption even now. 2nd Mile’s work in the life of our community is just one example of making this future Kingdom visible today
There are many stories that must be understood to explain an organization like 2nd Mile, but we must start with entering into the grand narrative into which every other story fits.