the unity of the Body of Christ

*This post is written from thoughts I jotted in my journal during a class I’m taking. Some of my readers may think I’m coming down a little hard on the white church in America, and it could probably be argued that I’m perhaps generalizing too much. But I would like to respond with a plea for repentance and humility rather than argument. 

This past week Canon Stephen Gauthier was talking about the unity of the Body of Christ. “There is unity in diversity,” he said. “United does not mean identical, yet it is impossible to separate the body without irreparable harm.”

Scripture does not present disdain for the Church as an optional attitude. The Church is the family of God, the Body and Bride of Christ. These are truths now; they are not ideals, and we are called to understand this as the truest of truths. When we are baptized into Christ, we automatically enter into the deepest of family relations with every other Christian on the planet and throughout time. These are bonds that will never be severed; they are permanent, existing throughout eternity.

Martin Luther King Jr’s well-known words about the most segregated hour in America take on new, deeply sorrowful meaning when we grasp this truth. The white church in American (of which I am a part) went far beyond saying to the African American or Chinese American church what the eye said to the hand in I Corinthians 12. “I don’t need you,” said the eye to the hand, but the white church literally tried to cut off the ethnic church in the States. It tried to kill it, to completely sever it from the body of Christ at large.

Today many in the white church have acknowledged a certain level of sin against minority brothers and sisters, yet, in my view, a form of the same sin continues, for though the white church is no longer trying to kill off minority churches, there is a very pervasive eye-to-hand sentiment. “We don’t need you,” the white church subtly but essentially says.

The attempted murder of the past and the current, pervasive, don’t-need-you attitude has caused and is causing irreparable harm, and it must be acknowledged that this harm is far greater than its political or legal ramifications. We—the unified Church—are the Body of Christ, and the actions and attitudes of the white members toward those they considered “less honorable” have done incredible, spiritual harm. The white church so often sees itself as superior, as holding greater knowledge, as having been the sending church of many, many missionaries, as the founder of seminaries and higher places of theological learning…

Yet the white church is responsible for great harm to the very Body of Christ.

What the white church has not realized is this: in thinking of the minority church as something like an extra, unneeded toe and in attempts to cut off this extra toe, it has misunderstood reality. Together the church in America—of all ethnicities—is a member, connected to the rest of the Body and joined with the Body to the Head—Christ. Though the historic white church did what it did believing it was cutting off a less necessary member (pushing that member away), what the white church has in actuality been doing is cutting itself off. The tourniquet applied strangled the white church. It cut off blood flow to itself, and until this tourniquet is loosened, the white church dangles apart from the rest of the member.

Belonging to the Church entire is not optional in the Body of Christ. The Body, whole and integrally connected is fact, is reality. We must live into this reality—or we will continue to do great harm.

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I’ve got a post up on the Redbud blog

flower closeupI’ve got a post up on the Redbud blog today. “The Myth of Mediocrity” appeared on this blog a while back, so it may sound familiar if you’re a longtime follower.

While you’re at the Redbud blog, you may want to check out some of the other posts, all written by my fellow Redbud writers. There’s some really amazing and encouraging stuff there–and if you’re a writer, helpful writing advice as well.

Thanks for reading–I’m praying today for all those who read this blog. This very day may you see the Lord more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.

Grace and peace,

~Jen

Africa Devotions, cont.: Not “right/wrong,” just different

These girls from Katanga LOVED the camera!

These girls from Katanga LOVED the camera!

One of the first lessons cross-cultural travelers need to learn is that cultural differences are not usually “right” or “wrong.” They are simply different. Every culture—including our own—has both “good” and “bad” things about it, “beauty” and “ugliness.” As we learn to break through cultural divisions through genuine friendship with people of other cultures, we will begin to more clearly see our own culture’s “beauty” and “ugliness.”

One of the hard parts of Kenyan and Ugandan culture is the number of street children and orphans. Another is the many children who die from preventable causes. These problems seem overwhelming.

But there is also beauty. Often the people who have absolutely nothing (especially by U.S. standards) welcome others into their homes and into their lives in extraordinary ways. They share in ways U.S. citizens find shocking. They embrace a different pace of life and a strong commitment to community, and they place much less value on appearances. In these same countries are people (like Mary and Wilfred) who love orphans and street kids with their whole hearts and do all they can to help them.

As Katie Davis (of Kisses from Katie) lived in Uganda, she began to have a more critical view of American culture, specifically of our materialism. (Read page 23 of K from K). When we (as U.S. citizens) encounter developing-world cultures, some of us feel the same way Katie did; others feel more tempted to defend U.S. culture and find fault with the third world. Both are normal reactions. We need to be gracious with each other as we process the differences, and we need to be honest with God as we wrestle with this. There are no easy answers.

But in the middle of our wrestling, we can hold tight to a beautiful picture God gives us in Revelation of people from every tribe, nation, people, and language gathered in equality around His throne in joyous worship (Rev. 5:9 and 7:9). Someday the titles “haves” and “have-nots” will be obsolete, and we will have complete, perfect unity.

Questions for thought/discussion:

  1. How do you feel about the differences between U.S. culture and other cultures you’ve experienced?
  2. How do we let go of cultural differences and see people from different cultures as simply another expression of God’s incredibly creativity—another facet of His image?
  3. How does the passage in Revelation bring us hope as we continually process these issues?
  4. Pages 219-224 of Kisses from Katie: How does God’s picture of the body of Christ—the family with brothers and sisters—fit into Katie’s insistence that we should treat everyone God brings into our lives like family?