Grace Emerges

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chap. 5, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 5

The Kingdom vs. The World

To further understand the metaphor of the wall, we need to look at the division that it creates and perpetuates. What is outside this wall? What is the surrounding environment that the church exists within? What is the outside world, and who populates it? Our definition of the “outsider” must be as strong as our definition of “insider”. Our beliefs about separateness are what keep the wall in place. So, separate from whom, separate from what? What is the benefit and distinction of being inside the wall vs. outside of it? Clearly this is a matter of doctrines and prohibitions. Those outside the wall are addressed by our doctrine as those lacking God’s acceptance, and as those that do not uphold our prohibitions. So outside the wall, the world is teeming with God-rejected evil-doers, in contrast to those inside the wall, who are God-accepted good-doers. Since nobody is perfect, and there is some good in everyone, these lines are somewhat gray, but are firmly held nevertheless to create a dichotomy of “Us” vs. “Them” in our universe. Those inside the wall and those without. The Kingdom vs. the World.

Is this really our intention, though? Is our mission and purpose as followers of Christ to be the lone bastion of goodness in the dark world? To shine our light brightly within our own walls, so the world outside will see God’s glory and come to us to be transformed? This does not seem to be the way of Christ. The Greatest Commandment of Jesus was to “Love God. Love Others,”, and certainly his life showed how to live this out. Jesus showed by example that we must embrace the “Other” and love the “Other”. He taught lengthy lessons on how to do this, like the parable of the prodigal son, and the parable of the good Samaritan. He showed it by dining with the socially-rejected evil-doers of his day, and by trying his best to save people like the woman caught in adultery from the self-righteous wrath of the religious elite. Isn’t there a way to follow Christ by accepting outsiders, and yet still keep our primary identity as Christians? I believe there is -- by simply following Christ. If we act like he did, we must abandon our walls that separate people into categories. We must let people into our hearts. We must learn to see people the way that God does. He does not have “good children” and “bad children.” He only has “children,” with their good and bad traits on full display. Can you even imagine an earthly parent being content to allow only their “good children” inside the house to be loved and protected, while the “bad children” sleep outside? Maybe the bad children would see how good their siblings are inside the house, and repent and shape up? Certainly not! I don’t see it working that way. In fact, I’m sure we as a society would punish parents that acted like that and take away all their children to be raised in foster care! A parent loves his/her children. And God commands us to love each other, because we are all God’s children.

They are Us

Once again, who are these people of the world? What does our doctrine say about them? How does God see them? I will delve into the doctrines that hold up the Moderate Wall and split the world into “Us” and “Them” categories in further chapters. But for now, consider who these people are. In many cases, they are our (literal) brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, children and other relatives. They are our co-workers and friends. They are the people of our towns, cities, countries. In other words, they are “Us”! Any distinction that you can make in people is blurry and filled with exceptions and doubts. Spiritually speaking, the only distinctions between people are the ones that people choose for themselves. People can identify as Christians and can attend a church, so they self-identify as part of the inside group. Or people can identify as atheists and self-identify as part of the outside group. Then there is the ambiguously-identified group of people in the middle that do not make it easy for us to decide where they stand. But can an outsider follow Christ? Can an insider refuse to follow Christ? Can an honest man who doesn’t like church be good, kind, and seek God with all his heart? Can those that question the existence of God (both inside and outside the church) at the same time be pleasing to God? Does God enjoy the presence of people, whether they question or accept? The point is this: when we can no longer create clear definitions of “Us” and “Them”, then the wall separating us crumbles. 

When the people on the outside are indistinguishable from those on the inside, then the wall is simply a mechanism for self-identification. It is a construct. It is a club membership card, and nothing more! If we are not different, then we are separate only by choice. We choose this life of isolation, to protect ourselves and our own comfort from the inconveniences of embracing people that are different than us. In other words, we are benefiting from disobeying the law of Christ! We refuse to follow him into the world outside, and we sanction it with our worship of Christ. This is contradictory behavior, founded in wrong beliefs about how we are so special that we are better than someone else. If we are to follow Christ we must abandon the wall that divides us.

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