Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Breaking out of the Bubble

How easy it is to live in a sacred cocoon. In a Christian bubble. To define the world as Us and Them. And to make a conscious or unconscious decision to stay within the protective World of Us—unless absolutely necessary to venture into the scary World of Them. Stay where it's safe with people who look like us and think like us and worship like us. Is there anything wrong with that?

I remember struggling with this question for the first time when we returned from China to live in Kansas for 7 months in 2004, while Charly finished his Masters. We were connected with a great church, and all of our activities and relationships seemed to branch off from there. If I wanted to connect with non-church people, it would really take some effort. So the underlying question was did I want to make that effort? Being involved with church people felt really comfortable.

We have been in Colorado for 6 months now, and sorting out how our family fits in America. Getting connected with people. Trying to figure out the church scene. And not wanting to be confined by a bubble. Charly has been more aware of this issue than I have. My recent reading of Why Jesus Crossed the Road by Bruce Main has helped me to better understand the tension he's been feeling. And to have a growing desire, along with him, that our lives be lived “out there” not just “in here.”

Richard Rohr offers a great challenge: We must "have one foot in our faith community and one foot in the larger world—or frankly we have little to offer either group...Somehow we all must learn to love people, groups, and institutions that really turn us off—or love is not love at all.”

How can we cross roads to connect with people who are different than us? People not very natural for us to love? To extend a hand instead of close a door. To invite them in instead of shut ourselves off.

The following passages have gripped me as I've been pondering this issue of Inclusion/Exclusion:

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you yourselves have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:15-17)

What was it that made Jesus so angry? The NIV Study Bible says, “The court of the Gentiles was the only part of the temple in which Gentiles would worship God and gather for prayer.” And here were people who were trying to hinder these non-Jews from worship. They were trying to make money off of them in the holy place designed to be a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah had written:

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—those I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Sovereign Lord declares—he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:6-8)

Those who belong to the Lord are not all gathered to Him yet. Doesn't that sound like what Jesus said in John 10?

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (v. 14-16)

Those in God's family will come from different places, to become one flock. Jesus came to tear down the dividing wall and to bring unity.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are called Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision”--remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and people to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-18)

God's plan has always been for the nations. A blessing to be extended. Not withheld.

The end times will bring the ultimate fulfillment of God's plan for the nations, voiced in song for Jesus, the Lamb who was slain:

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

The song Jesus Friend of Sinners by Casting Crowns has been one of our family's longtime favorites, and the lyrics always make me feel convicted:

"The truth's become so hard to see. The world is on their way to you but they're tripping over me." 
"Let our hearts be led by mercy. Help us reach with open hearts and open doors."
"Nobody knows what we're for, only what we're against when we judge the wounded."
"Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours."

Bruce Main writes, “To those carrying his name today, Jesus calls out and reminds us to rediscover the often overlooked discipline of road crossing. With this challenge comes a promise. Our faith journey will be enriched. Our lives will be transformed. And our world will be changed.”

The adorable youngest daughter of the Libyan family
that we met at an ESL potluck and Charly invited over on Saturday


  1. I think one of the dangers of living in a place where your faith is one of the most prominent is that it is easy to become apathetic and live a perhaps hardworking, faithful volunteering life...but all safely within our comfortable boundaries. As much as part of us wants to go back to North America, part of us thinks that living in a more secular country keeps a bit more on our toes, a bit more purposeful, a bit more naturally meeting people who don't believe like we do. I so appreciate your heart, to "cross the road"...God will guide you...

    1. Thank you, Julie. And I think you're exactly right. The Libyan family who came over last week has lived in the US for 6 years now and this was their first time to be in an American home. They didn't know what was culturally appropriate to bring as a gift so they asked a friend for help, and erred on the side of "more is better". They arrived with a homemade cake, a Libyan specialty dish of potatoes and beef, and a gift bag with a European box of chocolates and a handmade crocheted table covering. It seemed so easy for us to just invite them over for the afternoon (they said in between prayer times was most convenient) but to them it was a really big deal. I thought your post on reaching out to Internationals was great: http://www.theserviette.com/blog/5-reasons-internationals-feel-lonely

  2. Wow! Would you mind if I share just that little story from your comment on my Serviette Facebook (anonymously)? That's exactly what I've been talking about...some people are never invited over!! It's so sad!



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