So this week I got invited to a cool BBQ hosted by a sweet couple that we have loved and connected with for a few years. These guys have been on an incredible journey over the past few years and their desperation to see something legitimate, organic and natural has helped them connect with guys from all spheres of society. The BBQ was as impromptu, laid back and as organically arranged as pretty much anything I have encountered over the past few years and it gave me great hope of a fresh day of similar gatherings rooted deeply in relationship and reality. What amazed me about this drawing together of the global community was the diversity which manifested. Yes there were a few ‘believers’ present and yes at times the conversations were I suppose ‘christian’ in manner, yet what was more apparent was what presented itself before us; a cross section of humanity which spanned religions, races, cultures, faiths and ethnic backgrounds. In the midst of the colourful conversations, loud reggae beats and strong smell of herbal remedies was a clear and definite sense of the oneness and perfection of humanity. Yes there would have been differences in the room, yes there would of been strength of opinion and emotion yet none of these things detracted or became an issue in us manifesting our union together. It was perfect.
A friend who obviously recognises that I’ve been on a transitionary journey over the past couple of years asked me today what it was that started me realising that I needed to move away from certain areas of thinking. It was a loaded question, but one of the things that got highlighted to me a couple of years ago was the churches inability to embrace difference and make space for change. I started to see that the church was threatened by difference, that difference was a strong negative rather than a powerful positive which ‘if’ embraced had the potential to cause us to grow together. I also started to see that sadly even though we can preach ‘grace’ and ‘inclusion’ as an unconditional reality that in ‘reality,’ in this present world, we actually struggle to include and show grace to those who may begin to think differently to ourselves. I saw that if we were to look carefully that we would find that the majority of our friendships, relationships and church clubs are filled with others who ‘think’ exactly as we do, and that as soon as thinking changes within those relationships a threat is then posed which usually brings about the demise of those friendships.
When you look at the New Testament for all of the talk of ‘Oneness’ and ‘Unity’ it’s sad that we also actually see very definite schisms and divides; “One say’s I am of Paul, another I am of Cephas, another I am of Apollos!” Even back then where there seemed to be a strong flow of encouragement to live as one and to recognise that there is no; “male/female” divide, no; “bond/free, jew/gentile,” that all were One tribe under heaven, there still seemed to be the need for individuals to proselytise the masses, which seemingly created only division and an illusion of unity based around agreement. When you look at it there still seemed to be the need for some sort of theological agreement so that unity could manifest, yet the resulting fruit of this manifested with sectarianism and the exclusion of others? It’s crazy that the message seemed to be one of ‘Unity Now’ yet there still seemed to be the need for making everyone just like us? Maybe the ‘differences’ manifesting were just too much for the apostles? Maybe their picture of utopia was a uniformed one with everyone looking, sounding and believing exactly the same thing? I wonder what would have happened if they had just sank into a present union and had eyes to see the glory of a global community who’s difference and diversity was a blessing and not a curse?
When I look at the life of Jesus what I see is pure unadulterated love which embraced the ‘whoever’ in ‘whatever!’ It seemed that maybe he saw something of a perfection and a unity in humanity despite the difference and theological messiness of the day. It’s obvious to me that he connected himself with ‘whoever’ and was in no way looking for agreement as a basis for relationship! What a guy.
For two years now I have been banging the drum that somehow we have to make room for and embrace difference. In previous seasons of my life I lost way too many friends as I allowed theological elitism and dogmatic aggression manifest in my relationships. Why the need to win everyone over to my way of thinking? Why the need to proselytise the world and make everyone just like me in order to have relationship? Maybe that shows some insecurities which need uprooting in my thinking? I mean if I have to have agreement to get along then maybe something isn’t right? It’s sad when we can no longer endorse a person because we can no longer endorse their theology! Think about it guys, we walk together for 20 years, we eat together, drink together, journey together, we ‘know’ each other BUT suddenly they can’t endorse YOU because they no longer agree with you in a few areas. How crazy is that? I mean when you’ve walked with people for twenty years and they suddenly back off from ‘YOU’ just because you’ve changed your thinking in some areas then surely something is wrong? Surely we walk with each other not because we agree on everything but because we love and appreciate each other as brothers right?
So many guys hurting right now, excluded because they chose to walk away from certain theological frameworks. I feel your pain, yet I have great hope that maybe in this time of great transition and movement away from religious extremes that the resulting fruit will be relationships not based upon agreement but love. I don’t know about you guys but I passionately want to see the day when the foundation of relationships and church denominations aren’t based upon theological agreement but maybe despite theological agreement. A day where love for each other will be the foundation and where ‘Grace’ won’t just be a catchy buzz word but a manifestation of life and patience right at the centre of fledgling friendships. I’m so over debating scripture, arguing my point, pulling guys into my ever evolving stream of thinking, I’m beginning to realise that there is a place beyond right/wrong and black/white and it’s the reality of every day life living as a human, alongside other humans! We share this world together, there’s space for us to disagree and there’s grace to still love each other more each day, to learn from each other and to drink from each other. Peace x