This morning I continued readings through N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian with the chapter for this morning on the Bible. I loved the way that he opened up this chapter:
It’s a big book, full of stories with big characters. They have big ideas (not least about themselves) and big mistakes. It’s about God and greed and grace; about life, lust, laughter, and loneliness. It’s about birth, beginnings, and betrayal; about sibling squabbles, and sex; about power and prayer and prison and passion… and that’s only Genesis. (p. 173)
What a great start to capture the drama that unfolds in the narrative of Scripture, but he continues with this statement, “there are just as many battles about the Bible these days as there are battles within it’s pages. And some of them for the same reason. Sibling rivalry: from Cain and Abel to the two unnamed brothers in Jesus’s story about the prodigal son” (p. 174).
I find it interesting that the first murder that happens in the creation story is between two brothers. From the time that we are children most of us have experienced conflict “in-house”. As I look at my news feed, I wonder how much of the conflict that we experience is often “in-house.” Between two countrymen locked in an epic battle of words over two philosophical ideas, between two neighbors taking each other to court over a plant, between two teams that take the competition on the field too far… it seems as though we are all victims of friendly fire in one way or another.
Unfortunately, the church is a microcosm of humanity. What we experience in the world bleeds into our doors. Bickering, taking competition too far, epic battles of words in a gory, inky mess, we see it all. In many ways it makes me sad when I read what Christians write to each other online. These words taken to the extreme inevitably ends with the word “Christian” in quotation marks. If reconciliation is the center of our faith, then maybe it should bleed out into our lives.
This does not mean that we won’t hurt each other, God knows that I’ve hurt plenty of people in my short life, but it does mean that we are quick to make genuine peace through forgiveness which often requires that we eat the emotional cost. Forgiveness is more active than tolerance, it requires more, costs more, and hurts more. Forgiveness is an abounding grace that invites us to surrender those pains daily, even hourly if we must. I’m reminded of what Scot McKnight writes in his book Jesus Creed:
… Jesus suggests: neighborly love begins in the home. In fact, if it is not shown in the home, it is a sham in public. How can we show such love?… Christians are not called to tolerance; Christians are called to love. Toleration condescends; love honors.
Perhaps we can infer: if love is not shown in our churches, it’s a sham in public.The thought of peace, love, and grace, can seem so naïve and idealized, that I hate it. It seems like a failed social engineering project that got left in the VW Bug a few decades ago, but I like what McKnight, and ultimately Jesus, is getting at: perhaps love, peace, grace, and mercy live out in our personal lives can become a microcosm that tells the world a different story.