Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Monday, September 01, 2008

We have met the enemy ... Them & us in the institutional church

I've been speaking on John 17 for the last few weeks. We're working our way through the whole chapter, which is actually an amazing, inspiring, information packed prayer of Jesus'.

Somewhere between the upper room and the last supper and the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest, Jesus prayed this prayer in the presence of his disciples. In the precious last minutes of his life with his beloved friends Jesus poured out his heart to God.

A few years ago I was asked to speak at a church camp on the subject of evangelism. One thing that came out of the workshop's I ran over that weekend was the way so many of those gathered viewed those who were not fellow Christians. It was clear that, for the most part, non-Christians were seen as the enemy.

Yet when it comes to fellow, clean, middle class people with similar ethics and values, to those of the predominantly middle class, evangelical church it was easier to let the thoughts of "enemy" pass. But what about people of other religions, or other socio economic or racial groups (especially those with a different culture to our own)? Or people who are quick to point out the failings of Western Christianity? Or homosexuals or atheists? Or people who criticise the church? With these "kinds" of people many are quick to draw a line in the sand. They may even say, these people are wordly, and we are not. They are the enemy, they are not God's!

In John 17, as Jesus prays for his disciples, he makes a subtle, but interesting point. It's so subtle that it could easily be overlooked - I had to point it out during our discussion at yesterday's gethering.

Jesus says "I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word."

Where did the disciples originate? Jesus says they came from "the world". Jesus also says, at this time, before they were "given" to him, they belonged to the Father. I think this says something about the people who are not yet aware of Jesus or are yet to join him as a disciple. It says that even though we like to draw lines and put people in boxes and find enemies to excuse our lack of action, God doesn't. Before these guys were taken from the world they were the Father's.

If we look at what Jesus is saying here about the disciples, and if we make the (reasonable) assumption that the disciples where no more or less special than you or I or anyone else then, I think, it becomes clear that there is no one on the planet who isn't already God's. There is no enemy among the people of planet Earth.

When we look at people through the framing story of God's love, even people who exist, day to day, without an understanding of God or his love, we see things differently. A world of action opportunities. Not opportunties to preach or coerce or manipulate, but opportunities to serve, and stand along side and love and support and befriend. Opportunities to share in the work of the "Word", which was passed to the first disciples by Jesus and which has been handed down through the generations and over the centuries to us, today. It is a work that goes something like this;

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
As Walt Kelly's comic strip character Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us"!

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