Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Barriers into Bridges

The following is one of my favorite passages from Bruce Main's Why Jesus Crossed the Road. I hope you have a chance to read the whole book!

"Metaphorically speaking, Jesus crossed the “roads” that divided people on the basis of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and economic standing. Jesus' road crossing actions demonstrated that he did not follow the religious and societal protocols of this day. In a world that was governed strictly by geographical, religious and social barriers, Jesus was audacious enough to cross the roads that kept people in safe categories. And by crossing those roads Jesus demonstrated that a God-following life is a life of inclusion and expansion—not an exclusive and limited life that avoids certain kinds of people and certain places. The God-following life for Jesus was a life committed to entering the lives and stories of all kinds of people. It was a life that challenged barriers...

At the heart of Jesus' public ministry was his willingness to convert barriers into bridges—bridges where differences could be united and embraced...

I believe that we can faithfully read the Bible, pray, fast...and never really change. We can go to church all our lives and still hold bigoted views of others, live in fear, and never develop the capacity to see beyond our own kind of people...A life dedicated to the practice of traditional spiritual disciplines does not guarantee growth toward full Christian maturity.

The problem with the traditional spiritual disciplines is that they can all be done in isolation—both privately and within groups—and simply reinforce what we want to believe. The problem with a spiritual life being exercised in isolation is that it allows people to grow without the perspective of others. Surrounding ourselves with people who think, act, look, and even smell like us usually leads toward a distorted growth pattern or no growth at all. We may ultimately experience a small fraction of what God wants for our lives, even with erroneous views going unchallenged. But ultimately our growth becomes biased, unbalanced, and stunted.

That is why the discipline of road crossing is so critical to add to our spiritual disciplines.

Some people might argue that crossing roads—going to those places we find uncomfortable and out of the way—should be the end result of our interior development. To put it another way, we engage in spiritual disciplines to prepare ourselves to reach out to other people. Crossing roads, you might argue, should be placed in that category of “Christian service” or “social action,” not spiritual discipline.

I would argue differently. Jesus did not have a “spiritual life” with a little service tacked on. Nor did he have an occasional service project with a few hours of spiritual disciplines scheduled in his downtime. Rather, there is an integration of these two realities expressed in the life of Jesus. Action and contemplation interact with one another in a dynamic relationship. They feed each other. They shape each other. For Jesus, every aspect of life had the potential of deepening his relationship with God and expanding his notion of what it meant to live as God's child.

From Jesus we learn that the act of road crossing—crossing barriers—places us in conflicted situations that challenge our narrow vision of spiritual growth. Conflict can be healthy and lead to growth: it can call us to reevaluate our lives, our commitments, our perspectives, our prejudices, and our vision for God's work in the world."



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