reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 49 : May we repent of too often being from only ONE tribe, tongue, & nation.

banquet wineRevelation 7 describes the gathered followers of Jesus in heaven as from every tribe and every tongue and every nation.

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
(Revelation 7:9-10 HCSB)

Jesus prayed in what is called “The Lord’s Prayer” for “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:9-10 HCSB)

I would suggest that those who consider themselves “churched” in the present day do not look “on earth as it is in heaven,” at least as described in Revelation 7. We need to repent of too often being from only ONE tribe, tongue, and nation.

What’s insane is that local churches typically represent only ONE tribe, tongue, and nation, and yet local churches typically are not ONE. We tend to be one of the most divided, disunited groups in our culture, which completely ignores the very prayer our Lord and Savior prayed for us in John 17!

I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me.
(John 17:20-23 MSG)

How can this be?!?

Paul wrote to the church of Corinth that they were ministers of reconciliation.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:14-21 ESV)

Again, what’s insane is that those who consider themselves “churched” tend to be models of un-reconciliation rather than ministers of reconciliation. The difficult truth is that those who consider themselves “churched” today are more racist and more segregated than we would ever want to admit to being.

The Gospel of Jesus is the message of undeserved reconciliation between us and God. The church, therefore, ought to embody that Gospel by being one of the most united, singularly-focused, gospel-purposed, reconciled groups of selfish, diverse, opinionated, obstinate people on earth.

That’s how the world will know we are disciples of Jesus.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 HCSB)

What would have to change for that to be the case? I would suggest at least these three reFUNCTIONs:

:: ACTUALLY STUDY & TRY TO UNDERSTAND OTHER TRIBES, TONGUES, & NATIONS.
Get to know their customs and culture and what matters to them and what doesn’t. Get to know how integrated they want to be. Don’t expect them just to adjust to your own ways. Engage in their ways, too. Grow to be one together.

:: ACTUALLY RECOGNIZE THE PREDICAMENT THAT SOME TRIBES, TONGUES, & NATIONS ARE IN.
For example, I heard one teacher articulate that for the black community in America, it is like they joined a Monopoly game where all the white players had all the prime properties and were the prime owners. That is a very wise, appropriate way to describe it, in my opinion. It’s not just a white-black thing, though. This is about Christ-followers of all tribes and tongues and nations uniting around Jesus. We have to recognize the background of each other.

:: ACTUALLY RELATE WITH ONE ANOTHER AS FRIENDS INSTEAD OF JUST AT EVENTS.
We do stuff and call it “unity” events. But it’s not. We hold conferences and emphasize the need for reconciliation. But it may not lead to change. Actual engagement in relationship in which our friendships grow to become families made one in the love of Christ by the power of His resurrection.

Lord Jesus, You have made us one with You and one in You. Please help us to reflect and embody what You have done to reconcile us with God and with one another. Please have mercy on us, for we don’t know what we ‘re doing. Please help us to give that same kind of grace to each other.

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reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 16 : May the Truth be declared & demonstrated in the tone & skin of grace.

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I heard it again today from a preacher friend. “Our country is far from God, and the church needs to rise up and declare the truth!” There was a chorus of “AMENs!!!” – except from me. I actually cringe when I hear this admonition, especially in the context of a bunch of baptist preachers (which I am also, by the way).

What do we really mean when we say statements like that one? What will “rising up” accomplish? What does “rising up” really look like? And how are we defining “truth?”

The Gospel of John may help clarify this for those who consider themselves “churched,” if we will have ears to hear.

John seemed to connect the word “truth” with the word “law.” Whether he thought of them as synonymous is unclear, but what is clear is that he saw them in relationship to one another. Why am I so sure of this? Because of John’s introduction.

In John 1:14-18, John seems to contrast the way “law” was delivered by Moses with the way “truth” was delivered by Jesus. Check it out:

The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, “This was the One of whom I said, ‘The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’ ”) Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son — the One who is at the Father’s side — He has revealed Him. 
(John 1:14-18 HCSB)

John wrote that they had observed the glory of the Father in the grace AND truth of the Son. He went on to declare that we have all received an abundance of grace – “grace after grace,” pointing to the way Moses delivered law in comparison to the way Jesus delivered truth. Verse 18 helps us understand what John is doing here. John asserted that “no one has ever seen God.” But Jesus “has revealed Him.”

Whereas Moses delivered rules that commanded lovely and gracious living, Jesus delivered the Truth that revealed the love and grace of the Life-Giver. The Law more than anything else exposed our unlovely, greedy living. In contrast, “grace and truth” exposed how loving and gracious God is.

John would go on later in his Gospel to quote Jesus as teaching, “I am the…Truth” (John 14:6). What the Law could not declare and demonstrate, Jesus did. He brought light into the world (John 1:1-13) that exposed our selfishness and insecurity along with our propensity to hide in the darkness of our shame. However, at the same time, He shed light on the Truth, Himself being the Truth, that God was forgiveness us from our selfishness, securing us with His grace, and inviting us out of the darkness of our shame into the freedom of His name. “Jesus.” “Yeshua.” “Yahweh saves.”

Grace after grace.

Whereas the Law highlighted our condemnation, Truth AND Grace brought the life-giving light of our salvation up close and personal. Jesus revealed what God had been communicating all along by declaring and demonstrating Truth in the tone and skin of grace.

Do we as His followers do the same?

Maybe we need to heed the command of Jesus from John 13 when He washed His followers feet. He told them to go and do what He had done. To declare that He is truth while going close enough to serve. To demonstrate that He is Truth while relating graciously.

Maybe instead of “rising up and declaring the truth,” we need to get on our knees and declare it.

Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 
(Romans 2:4 HCSB)

May we never forget how God extended His kindness to all of us, even those of us who consider ourselves “churched.”

GRATEFUL, may we go and do the same.