I posted this on Facebook last night, and it seemed to touch a nerve in a good way, so here it goes out into the world.
I’ve been thinking about something for a month or two now. I think it’s thunk enough to be written down and shared with you.
In the 10 years since my son Teifion died and the nearly nine years since I moved to the UK I have changed quite a lot. I imagine you have too. The other week I was cataloging the big changes. A lot a conservative American Christians, if they had access to that catalogue, would waste no time in declaring me a first class passenger on the Satan Train.
I can see why people might feel that way, with my freakish vegetarian, pacifist, Obama-voting, sending my kids to public school, moving to Great Britain, quite liking socialised medicine, Openness theologising, weird spelling ways. (There. I said it.)
On the other hand, if people hung out with me for a while, they would get to know my heart (again) — that I that love God more than ever, that following Jesus and working for God’s kingdom is what drives me, that I’m still out to change the world for good, at least the part where I am.
The thing is, we don’t hang out. We trade status updates on Facebook. I don’t think that is a very good way to get to know anyone’s heart. I know my heart doesn’t come through too much on Facebook. Mostly it’s jokes with a bit of opinion thrown in. The opinion has gotten me in a bit of trouble lately. Apparently, I have different views on the world than some of you. (I know! Weird.) It appears — I can’t say for sure because I can’t sit down and talk with them — that for a couple people my opinions are too far away from what’s okay for them to be friends with me anymore.
Here’s how I see it. In the years since we all stopped hanging out in the same place once or twice a week, we have gone in a lot of different directions. I’m confident that where I’ve headed is pretty much right where God wants me to be. I’m willing to bet that you feel generally the same about where you are. It’s all fine and dandy until t’internet spews out in a news feed the fact that you are still voting Republican or I don’t approve of eating animals.
If we are both convinced that we are obeying God with our lifestyle, that means one of us is wrong and we have to quickly defend our personal rightness with God as the Most Right, or retreat from the conversation, or get angry at the ‘sin’ of the other person, or stop being friends.
What if there was a different way? Let’s take healthcare, for example. What if the fact that I like socialised medicine doesn’t mean that I’m a layabout freeloader who wants to drag Stephen Hawking in front of a Death Panel and then sacrifice him on a swastika shaped altar. What if I just have an opinion? What if the fact that you like privately funded healthcare doesn’t mean that you want to power your SUV by burning the reposessed belongings of ne’r-do-wells while they die of the cancer they so justly deserve. What if you just have an opinion?
What if we had enough faith in the promise that the One who began a good work in each of us ‘will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ’? What if we believed that, even if one of us had entirely the wrong theology? What if we kept in mind that it’s pretty much impossible to see someone’s heart on Facebook?
There is a good chance you are reading this and thinking, ‘Jeff, get over yourself; I’ve thought this way for years.’ I think that’s fantastic (not that you need or want my vlidation), and I am working on getting over myself. Really, it doesn’t matter what I think about anything. I’m just a crank in North Wales that you will know less and less as the years go by. But if you ever counted me as a friend or as your pastor, I’d like to speak into your life one last time before I fade out of your address book entirely — even as I type this it is starting to seem unnecessary to say and I am feeling presumptuous for saying it. Nevertheless, I shall press on:
Please, look at your brothers and sisters in Christ as fellow workers for the kingdom, even and especially if they have voted wrong or embraced opinions that you disagree with or embraced an expression of God’s church that you think is inferior.
Please, look at the world around you, including those in power, not as enemy combatants in a culture war, but as human beings whose need for a saviour is just as desperate as yours.
Please, ‘in your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death —
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.’
Thanks for taking the time to read all that. The bit at the end was quite good, wasn’t it!
14 August 2009
kingdom of god