Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A beginning

This summer, I have had the privilege of attending a small community Church in northern British Columbia, Canada. This past Sunday, they showed a video by Brian Mosley called “What is a Trader?” This short film challenges it’s viewers to refuse to succumb to the pressures of conforming to the standards of the world around us (characterized by what he calls the “me, me, me” mentality of the American Dream) and to Trade it in for following radically after Christ and His Kingdom. Thus, being a “Trader” is defined as someone who “lives out their faith” and is not content to simply talk about it. This means using every resource at ones disposal to confront injustice with the love and message of Christ; bringing hope to the desperate. The video asks it’s viewers the question “what makes your heart break and your fist clench?” Suggesting that maybe these are specific areas with which you can engage personally.

Well, this is where Mr. Mosley’s message backfires... at least for me. You see, while poverty and famine and genocide are utterly horrible and despicable things, (call me what you like) they do not break my heart. What then could break my heart? My heart breaks for you and for me; It breaks because if you were to visit my home parish (not the one I’ve been attending over the summer) you would be unable to take communion unless you are a baptized Orthodox Christian. One might reply that the solution is simple: go to a different church... Except, my heart is broken just as much by the fact that I could not allow myself to take communion with you if I visited your church. My heart breaks each time I cannot fully enter into the songs that are sung at a church simply because I cannot bring myself to sing songs I don’t agree with. My heart breaks to realize that you and I mean completely different things when we use such basic words as “salvation” or “gospel” and it breaks that we avoid talking about our issues or even pretend that they don’t exist. My heart is broken by the constant bickering and abuse we put each other through, by the continual distancing between one’s self and the preverbal “they.” In short, my heart is broken for Christ’s Broken Body... the Church.

I understand if this is a shock to you. Chances are, you were unaware that we as the Body are broken. The fact is, there are approximately 1.2 billion Catholic Christians, between 600-800 million Protestant Christians of various types, and around 230 million Orthodox Christians. Each of these groups by and large have highly differing views on just what Salvation even is. If that’s not brokenness, I don’t know what is. But can anyone really be surprised that the Body of Christ is broken? After all, it is made up of fallen sinful human beings (and we even differ on what exactly that means...) At the same time, I also believe that Christ is building His Church and that the gates of hell have never and shall never prevail against her. These two things must be held in tension, a paradox of sorts. That the Church is victorious yet broken truly is a mystery that I don’t think anyone can truly understand. Christ Himself said that the world would know us as His followers by our love one for another (Jn. 13.35). I really don’t care whether you agree with me that the Body of Christ is broken. I am not really trying to convince you of this brokenness... that is a topic for others to tackle. What I am really getting at is that I’m sick and tired of avoiding even broaching the question. Does our bickering and competition show to the world the love of Christ? Does our Constant disagreement and lack of real communication truly manifest the light of the gospel to the world (regardless of what that means to you).

I must apologize for setting up this “false-dichotomy” between you and me, because that is precisely what I am dead against. So, what is this all about then? It’s about you and me together. I am chiefly concerned with unity, not division. It is this division that causes my heart to break and this is a part of my response to Brian Mosley’s video. I am not suggesting that there is an easy solution to this heartache; if there was a quick fix we’d already know about it. If what I have said resonates with you, I hope that you take this brokenness seriously. This can no longer solely be the province of church leaders and theologians. For any lasting healing to be accomplished, the average person (like you or I) must engage. First and foremost, we must Pray. We must pray that Christ would continue to guide, direct, and build His Church by His Holy Spirit as He has done for the past two millennia. We must pray that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. We must pray for the unity of the faithful in Faith, Spirit, and Truth.  Second, we must actively look for Christ in one another. We must seek Him in everything, especially in our interactions with others. Finally, we must seek to engage each other by actively listening to what the other has to say. We must leave our “anti-other” polemics behind and strive for understanding rather than proving the other to be wrong. We must be free to ask and answer the question “what do you mean when you say x, y, and z.” We must seek to “get to know” the other and discover that the other really isn’t so different from ourselves. Understanding and listening do not imply passive affirmation, but rather they point to an engaged and critical dialectic that prefers the other and gives place for differences so that we can truly see and know each other as we are rather than simply as threats to be eradicated.


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