Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Crosswalk -- Where life and God meet

 "The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversation, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed."
Paul David Tripp; Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

We Christians tend to believe in the Cross; the power of the Cross, what it stands for
 -- unlimited sacrificial love, forgiveness,

Unlimited love;
I don't think that any one would suggest that sin and the effects of sin exist because of a lack of love on God's side. Viewing the atonement for our sins and therefore the death of Christ on the cross as a sign of love rather than purely as a sign of judgement would, however, raise a practical dilemma for us. 

John 17 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may.

A lengthy passage, but can you see it? Jesus is concerned about our relationship with one another! Jesus prays that we experiencing the same love Christ has with His Father within our relationships in the family of God. He prays that His love in us is real, is experienced, and lived out for the sake of the watching world. And if His love is in every believer, how ought that to look like in a church family? If it were present, would the world believe our message of the gospel of reconciliation? 

I witness strife in kinship families both within the family of God and outside. I witness indifference and ignorance toward the others need, feelings, thoughts. Somehow we have reduced forgiveness to a social convention (as in 'Pardon me!') without practical and public content. I witness inter-relational silence rather than entering a difficult dialog with the aim of reconciliation. I witniss a lack of commitment towards the other person. But silence and therefore avoidance of an issue is not a sign of peace between brothers and sisters but rather shows a lack of love. Our primary alliance is to the ideal of the church and not the reality of the church.

The opposite of silence is not noise, but listening and responding in either words or deeds. Both will lead to challenges, tension but also eventual change in the relationship. But we fear tension and the exposure toward change, because both somewhat have in our thinking to do with judging. But God's creation is all about diversity and change with the paradox that God does not change. Perhaps for that reason God enjoys change so much that he created things to change, to grow, to be transformed just as His son grew in understanding while among us. 

I never heard a sermon about the 30 years of silence, the time Jesus lived among a fallen people, his neigbours, his siblings.

When the silence through fear is broken, it offers the opportunity for new beginnings, and new thinking, it offers the renewal of our minds. and as we reexamine the deeply cherished assumptions of our western mindset we may very well find that they hinder us from hearing Jesus' call freely. When we listen to the "plural you" of God's word to us, we will see that the gospel of Christ is more than getting into heaven or about living a comfortable, individually pious, middle-class life.  It is certainly not about justification of one particular way of life, but it is God's word to us, whatever, whoever, wherever we may be.

Some claim the church today has more consumers than committed participants where we see church merely as an event we attend or an organization we belong to, but no longer a calling that shapes our entire life in every aspect. I believe the fellowship of believers, a.k.a the churches purpose is that through the faithful ministry of every part, the whole body will grow to maturity in Christ. Each of us, including pastors or elders still need the ministry of the body of Christ as much as we did the day we first believed. Not only because we have a collective witness toward the world, but because growth requires fellowship not only with the people I have surrounded me with, but also, perhaps particularly with the people God has given into my life. 

And when we realize the beautify and necessity of diversity and change, we may realize the need for change in our relationship to one another. Apologies between us will have the power to free the mind from deep-seated guilt, shame, fear and blindness, and ultimately restore broken relationships, reconciliation will happen. Telling and hearing the Truth is a major step in this direction, a direction which leads to reconciliation. Reconciliation between
God and us is not optional, a matter of debate or opinions but the natural extension of love and the forgiveness Jesus achieved on the cross. Reconciliation is the restoration of creation. Reconciliation must happen between us. Reconciliation between enemies is the ultimate result of the gospel.  After all, the gospel is more than a set of ideas, called doctrines, to be believed, but is in fact a restored relationship with God and others, that is our mission, cause, and issue.

Living the gospel consistently in real life is difficult, and none of us is perfect.  But it is better to aspire to living the gospel and fail, experiencing and giving witness to God's wonderful grace and forgiveness in the process, than to settle for mediocrity in any relationship.  We must come to understand that forgiveness and by extension reconciliation is an essential, non-negotiable element of life in Christ and therefore in the church.

1 Cor 13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Again a lengthy and deep passage, but can you see it? Jesus is concerned about our relationship with one another! Because the quality of the inner life of the fellowship, the quality of connection that exist between all members is a witness of His presence. His presence redeems the realities of life, including the life within the fellowship. There is a necessary reason why Jesus prays in John 17 that we experiencing the same love Christ has with His Father within our relationships in the family of God. He prays that His love in us is real, is experienced, and lived out for the sake of the watching world. Jesus did not die for His people to be religious. He died so that we might believe in Him and be transformed. We need to be engaged in a purpose and strategy that Jesus came to Earth for. Our lives ought to be set for that divine purpose in Jesus Christ. I was called to that--proclaiming the message of transformation through Jesus Christ.”And if His transforming love is in every believer, how ought that to look like in a church family? If it were present, would the world believe our message of the gospel of reconciliation because it actually witnesses it? 

No comments:

Post a Comment