Här kommer några reflektioner jag gjorde i en morgonandakt på en samling i Rom mellan många olika typer av kristna.
John 11:51, 52.
”… that Jesus would die for the nation and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.”
First of all I am a Christian. I am not a superior or an inferior Christian. Just, by grace, a Christian, a child of God. Much ill will and blood have been spilled over whether we Christians are superior or inferior to one another or not. So we had better stay away from those labels. We all lack in many areas. We all have our blind spots. Even with amazing revelation available to the Church through grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, we all still see through a glass darkly.
As a Christian I am a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and at the end of the day, I and not someone else, am responsible for my walk with Christ and I am to be judged by Him. I will stand responsible for how I was a steward over my life.
I do belong, by God´s grace, to the community of the people of God. I am a living stone in something far greater than myself, the Temple of the Spirit. I am a particular member of the universal Body of Christ.
But I am also a child of my time. I am impressionable, influenced by the culture around me, both the spiritual and natural culture, the culture that I am so engulfed in. I have certain likes and dislikes, certain preferences and certain points of reference, some that I am not even aware of, and I have so many limitations.
I didn’t really ask for all these influences and limitations. They are just there. They are a part of my natural spiritual habitat, whether I like it or not. But with all these limitations, and this destined time in which I live and the surrounding culture of which I am a part, I have to realize that this is the only, yes, the only time and place that I actually have and this time is so short and these circumstances seem so narrow and often so unfortunate. So I have to reconcile with these circumstances that I live my life in. I must try to understand them. I must seek what is authentic in my time. I must seek Truth earnestly, although I will never find the fullness of it alone. But what I find I must do the best of. That is my particular contribution.
As one who has the amazing privilege of belonging to the People of God I cannot but reflect over its essence, its function and its condition in todays’ world. It is not hard to discover – with all the ups and downs – that God´s precious people, although alive and sometimes very vibrating, is still fundamentally fragmented, divided and scattered due to a series of historical circumstances and their long run consequences. This is nothing new, but it is ever alarming, it is always a scandal as it is a visible sign of sin and of the Fall and the separation of man from God.
God’s people is constantly challenged by the pressure to conform to the image of the world. We are all subject to this challenge, whether we like it or not. We cannot escape the culture we live in, nor its pressures and temptations that daily hammer on our souls. We are born into schism. It is our particular point of departure, it is the air we breathe, it is the cultural blind spots we have, but, thank God, it is not where things have to end.
The People of God, is what the Evangelist St. John is referring to in John 11:50, when he is quoting the high priest Caiaphas and then expounds on and explains the quotation; ”… that it is better that one man dies for the people so that the whole people would not perish.”
The perseverance and the unity of God´s people is a fundamental building block in Judaism and this carries over strongly into the Church where it is even deepened and hopefully one day fulfilled.
Jesus is dying on the cross for the salvation and the unity of God´s people. This is the Atonement, the reconciliation, the very core and foundation of our faith. Here the Evangelist St. John states that this core revelation also includes the mission to gather and to unite all God´s scattered people. So this is absolutely central in importance to our faith and our life in Christ. This is not negotiable. This is the Gospel.
So, in what time do we really live? I do believe we live in a time of a strong and almost irresistible centripetal move of God, towards his very heart, towards real unity. It is a mighty, but maybe yet rather unseen drawing together of God´s people of a dimension that eventually will be staggering to us. This unity Jesus says, is in Sprit and in truth. Truth is a precious gift. It is not just cold facts. It is not mental bricks that we hurl at one another. It is the liberating force of grace whereby we meet reality in a fuller, deeper and truer sense. It is a rare commodity in a post-modern world and a precious gift of grace that enables us to more clearly see the face of Christ.
Because we live in a scattered and fragmented age, which so much influences our thinking, we tend to build up ideas and favourite ideological preferences about how this gathering is going to happen. These preferences easily become our security, our standard, our measurement, and even part of our psychological defence systems.
We tend to systemize certain favourite categories and make them our standard of judgement. Because of the fragmentation around us and in us, we sometimes tend to draw too general conclusions from our own very limited knowledge and experience. When things develop differently than we thought, we easily become uncertain, distraught or even hostile if it does not match up with our own particular plans. Our need of control is a deep-seated motivation in us. We therefore need to open up, widen our circles and stop asking how all this will happen, to leave that field of thought open, and rather to put priority on why it must happen. That is, the assurance that it will really happen, although no human timetable or method, however sophisticated, is enough to make it happen…
The People of God is visible, concrete and tangible. So the unity of this people should be. This unity is both relational and structural. In this world a people or a nation consists of persons, families, groups, cultures. It has spiritual, political and judicial systems and sociological dynamics and relations. The same goes for the people of God. Its unity is spiritual and has deep invisible roots that connect to and receive life abundant from the Holy Spirit and these roots go deep into the very heart of God.
Still the People of God is ecclesiologically organised, orderly structured just as the human body is and as social life is. The big danger in our time is separation. Separation is the opposite of unity. Some would like to call this plurality. But separation refines one aspect, one element of truth on the expense of others. We then loose the universality, the unity in a deep and a real sense.
We cannot afford to pitch one truth against another. We cannot despise “form” to prefer “spirit”. We cannot prefer Spirituality on the expense of Ecclesiology. To despise form is to deny the central aspects of the Incarnation – and to open up for a very fluid Gnosticism. Neither can we relativize truth by saying that one “truth” is as good as the other. Why? Because the Holy Spirit´s work to restore unity in the Body of Christ is very real, concrete and tangible. It starts in our hearts but it does not stop there. For unity to become real and full it will eventually be structural, visible, tangible and concrete, in the midst of human limitations. This is how reality is structured. We don´t live a fantasy.
Exactly how this will happen we don´t need to speculate too much about, but it will happen according to the divine promises of Jesus Christ. We do need to understand, with the help of the Holy Spirit, where we actually are in this process, and how to deal properly and truthfully with the actual obstacles without falling into either wishful thinking, speculative ideas or following limited and sometimes even egotistical agendas. The world will eventually see the Church as one, love it or hate it, but not anymore remain indifferent to it. The road to this will be shaky, unsettling and dramatic.
Unity is absolutely necessary for the future of the Church, to manifest its fullness, its identity and its proper function. Its unity is also necessary for the world and is promised so that the world finally can see whom the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ is.
So anything and everything that delays, derails and blocks progress in this area is an obstacle from Satan, who is the divider and the slanderer. There is still so much to be done, in our hearts and all around us, in the Church at large; to pull out the indifference, the pride, the hidden agendas and the subtle rebellion, disguised under lofty words of freedom and independence that softly seduces our hearts and minds and actually lies to us and says that the best way is to go our own way, anyway. What a lie!
Empire-building is not just large or small religious systems and enterprises craftily developed, but it is the subtle temptation of every spiritual leader to wish to rule and reign and never let go of control, but instead control everything in detail and live to push personal ideas rather than to live for Christ.
The only way to true freedom, to salvation in its fullest sense, is to lay down our own lives and follow Jesus radically, again and again and again, in ever a new day with new challenges, until that narrow road finally crosses the horizon and meets the sky, where time crosses into eternity. In heaven there is no division, no schism, no scattering around. And our prayer today and every day is, that as it is in heaven so shall it be on this earth, more and more, as the Shepherd gathers his scattered people back into his one fold.