If you walk long enough in the various neighborhoods of the Christian faith, you will inevitably begin to notice the cul de sacs where groups gather around all sorts of factors: ethnic identity, doctrinal beliefs, native languages, experiential aspirations, worship style preferences - even favorite translations of the Bible. Finding our way into groups who are like us and with whom we feel we can walk out our understanding of Christian belief comfortably and faithfully is of course natural. In as much as we have all grown up being shaped by family and church life experiences, books we read and sermons we listen to it is a wonder we don’t have more groups dotting the landscape of Christianity.
Like a cityscape filled with the architectural styles developed by generations of creative genius, the world of Christianity is a vivid expression of the beauty of the image bearing nature of human personality and perspective and cultural creativity. We are of course the body of Christ, individually and corporately. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:4-5).
When lived in balance and with a proper perspective built on love and humility toward one another, Christianity is an amazing expression to a lost and broken world of the goodness, truth and beauty of God. Our witness is bold and our fellowship is a reflection of the love of 1 Corinthians 13. We are patient and kind and we don’t envy or boast. We aren’t proud. We don’t dishonor others and are not self-seeking or easily angered. We keep short accounts - no records of wrong. We never delight in evil and together rejoice in the truth. We always protect - even those we disagree with over doctrine or politics. We trust and hope and persevere, and we do all of this because love never fails.
When we live Spirit filled and activated lives in the shadow of the 1 Corinthians 13 rubric of life, we become together what Corrie Ten Book called, “tramps for the Lord” who have left our hiding places to roam the Gap with the Savior. We are heaven’s expatriates, camping where the kingdom is best served. We are earth’s dispossessed, who’ve journeyed forth to give a dying world not only the Gospel but our own souls as well. We are members of God’s global dispersion down through history and out through the nations, reaching the unreached and blessing the families of earth.*
Our differences then become the seasoning of our witness rather than the warts about which the world sees us fighting and arguing. We will still have robust discussions - arguments even - over points of interpretation, ideas about how to engage the world, what worship should look like and everything in between, but these discussions will be covered in love and cloaked in humility knowing that in this life, we see through a glass darkly. We will strive to walk in the paradox of grace and truth, knowing that grace without truth is not grace and truth without grace is not truth. And because we will fail often, we’ll be quick to ask forgiveness of our brother or sister.
While all of this seems a tall order, it is the way forward for the North American church. We’ve been duped into kingless kingdoms of social justice, culture warring kingdoms of god and country or the bland sort of cultural Christianity which is little more than a safe civil religion. None of these hits the mark. Let us therefore work together in love to pursue our Lord into the harvest, shining our light in the darkness, being salt and yeast in a broken and distorted world, edifying and encouraging one another, dedicating our lives to studying the word of God, to prayer, to fellowship, to bold witness and above all, to love.
A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
* David Bryant defines world Christians with this description in his fantastic book, In The Gap: What it means to be a world Christian.
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