It has been a tough go for the church in the United States over the past couple months. The name calling, division, and posturing reached a deafening volume last week in the wake of the World Vision controversy around employing those in gay marriage.
Massive amounts of energy poured into proving our “rightness” and your “wrongness.”
Relationships severed. Most without ever having created the space to share a meal and simply listen to one another.
Social media. Interviews. Articles. Press releases.
There have been so many chiming in on this thing that I saw no need to jump in and, well, to be honest, I’ve just been sad. Sad at the failed state of discourse within the church. Sad at the demonization. Sad that hungry kids across the world were losing their access to basic needs to live as a result of our inability to live, love and lead … together.
I’m not against heathy dialogue, disagreement, or even conflict (if dealt with transformatively rather than violently … and violence takes many more forms than bloodshed). I’m actually quite for it and have given my life to training the church for the work of conflict transformation.
The mission of God is reconciliation and the vocation of God’s people, the church. When we spend more time attacking each other rather than attacking the areas of brokenness in our world, we become a reflection of anti-kingdom.
How we live as the church is a direct reflection of who we follow.
But then something happened.
Our little faith community, which gathers for worship around our table and in our living room, has been walking with leaders from churches all over our city. Last night, we invited them to come worship with us.
What did that look like?
It looked like sharing a long meal around one table where we told stories of pain and stories of hope. We laughed, we held each others' children, and we washed dishes … together.
It looked like spending time in silence reflecting on our own brokenness and seeking forgiveness.
It looked like reading the Scriptures and encountering a Jesus who when tempted with power and prestige, chose humility and self-sacrifice.
It looked like praying in one voice for the good of our neighborhoods and city.
And how did it end?
By going around the room and blessing each other to live more fully into our identity as sons and daughters of God. To go forth and extend a message of reconciliation, first in ourselves, and then to a world in need of wrong things being made right.
In a church that is enduring so much division, these experiences of unity can seem radical and prophetic. While they may be prophetic, I don’t think they are all that radical. No, this is actually how the body of Christ is designed to function. It is not a new thing, it is simply a return to our identity.
All that to say, I’m not feeling as sad.
At least for today, I’m reminded that we are part of one much bigger Story that doesn’t end with us and our broken tendencies toward infighting. It is a Story of reconciliation that was set forth in Jesus and won’t end until all is restored.
The church may be going through a rough patch, maybe even an identity crisis, but I still believe it is intended to be God’s primary instrument of peace in the world. The road to reconciliation isn’t easy, and at times it feels far too slow, but as we all submit to the self-sacrificing ways of Jesus, I’m more certain than ever it is the road we are stumbling down.
The time in my living room may have only been a mustard seed of hope, but we all know about mustard seeds.
Here’s to a new season submitted to Jesus and joining, TOGETHER, in the world God is making.
Jon Huckins is on staff with NieuCommunities , a collective of missional communities and is the co-founder The Global Immersion Project which cultivates peacemakers through immersion in global conflict. Jon has a Master’s degree from Fuller Seminary and writes for numerous publications including, theOOZE, RELEVANT and Red Letter Christians. He has written two books: Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community and Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling . He lives in Golden Hill (San Diego) with his wife Jan & daughters Ruby & Rosie. Jon sits on the neighborhood council & is passionate about advancing the common good of his place. He blogs here: http://jonhuckins.net/.
Image: Unity concept, ra2studio / Shutterstock.com