More than ever before in my lifetime, it seems like nobody is on the same page. Different versions of reality are portrayed by competing news agencies, Scientific & social experts in bitter disagreements, while Christians and their churches continue splintering alongside political and social chasms. Where is Jesus?
As we read through the Gospels, we find ourselves enveloped in the story of a master intersector. I’m not even sure that’s a real word, but I’m going with it anyway. Similar to the words “orchestrator” or “arranger”, but with a sense of taking hold of situations – and the people who find themselves in the midst of them who seem to be traveling in opposite directions – and forcing them into the same space for the kind of crucible-learning that most of us avoid like the plague. Paradigm-shifting collisions between former enemies, humbling redefinitions of the rich and poor, role reversals between the powerful and the servant. Jesus approached the socio-political issues of His day by hacking a new path that basically challenged everyone to lay-down their arms and walk in a new way.
Most of Jesus’ teachings and interactions have a distinctly “redirecting” force to them, causing the people involved, and us by extension, to reexamine our inbred beliefs and traditions. These are our worldviews; the human cultures that we wrap ourselves with, and through which we interact with people who are different than we are. Some of these cultures are more closely aligned to Jesus’ way than others, but none of them belong to Him…and our Lord simply loves us too much to leave us inside of them. He’s always shaking us up so that we can learn to see with Kingdom eyes, and abandon whatever grievances we think we’re due.
Like the time when “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (Luke 9:46-48).
…Then the disciples looked at each other and said “sorry Jesus, we’re idiots” (my editorial comment). Just one example of Jesus turning people upside down to make a point. The problem is, Jesus isn’t here (bodily) with us right now. All we have is each other, and sometimes it seems like the American Church is just as divided as the world. It’s like we’re out of control, or we’ve lost ourway, or we’ve suffered a terrible injury in some way that has disabled us from embodying the unified and loving community Jesus desires us to be.
“My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21) Just after this, Jesus went to the garden where He was betrayed, arrested and subsequently crucified for your sins and mine….so you might say that “church unity” was His dying wish.” It’s how the world is going to recognize us as His. So, how are you doing at prioritizing that in your daily interactions? Are you part of the solution or the problem?
As we live through this time of upheaval, the world is watching the church and rolling it’s eyes because we don’t seem much different. Let us remember that breaking fellowship and slandering people with whom we disagree about social and political issues is dishonoring to our Lord Jesus and destructive to our witness as His people. Let’s take the advice of the Apostle Paul, “Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God…Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to building each other up.”