Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Countdown to Christmas Conversations: An Invitation to Consider the Character of the Christ – Part Five – The Just and Righteous Government

Upholding it all.
This is the sixth in a series of posts discussing my belief in Jesus as the Messiah, in hopes of fostering understanding of my spirituality, and encouraging others to share their own perspectives on spirituality (defined broadly as the means by which we derive meaning from life and assign value to its elements). For more about why I find the discussion of our spirituality to be so important, especially as we countdown to Christmas, please see the initial post in the series. (Found here: http://deathpastor.blogspot.com/2014/12/countdown-to-christmas-conversations.html)

Atlas trumped by "whole world in His hands."
As I discussed in the last post, Christians are called to be at peace, and to be peace-makers. And yet, we are among the most divisive and territorial groups, even against those with whom we should find the greatest agreement. If we serve the Prince of Peace, then why is there such little peace, even for Christians? Because, simply, too few Christians live as loyal subjects of the King of kings and Lord of lords. We do not practice the presence of the Prince of Peace.

For one thing, we do not apply the protocol Jesus prescribed for conflict resolution and relational reconciliation. The four stages Jesus prescribes in Matthew 18:15-18 require us to prioritize two goals. The first and foremost goal is relational reconciliation. He prays for unity in the body of Christ in John 17:20-21 as the means by which others will recognize His coming. But relational reconciliation is contingent on the second goal: conflict resolution. By “resolving conflict” I do not mean that we must come to agreement on every issue. But it is essential that we commit to an accurate focus and a detailed resolution (in the sense of the resolution of photographs or computer monitors). The real question is: do we clearly see the actual points of conflict?

But there is a second factor preventing us from ever approaching a clear understanding of the conflict(s), much less an relational reconciliation. Why do we ignore or even willfully avoid Jesus’ protocol in Matthew 18? In short, we are afraid. We fear the cost and consequences of each of the four stages of the Matthew 18 protocol. It is a simple matter to confront another’s beliefs or behaviors, so long as there is no opportunity for rebuttal, much less correction of my misperception or misunderstanding. I would prefer to have others simply alter their course to accommodate the beliefs, behaviors, ministries, and life to which I have already become accustomed. But the second stage Jesus prescribes, where He calls us to involve witnesses, involves the potential for those witnesses to exonerate the one I accuse, and to point out my inequity (and iniquity) instead.

Not knocking to get in, but to ask for an accounting.
Why won’t we pay the relatively minor cost of admitting we might be wrong? Because we do not fully grasp the consequences of failing to engage one another’s perspectives and reconciling ourselves together. We do not work for peace, and so we do not experience peace, because we refuse to trust the Lord to bring correction. We believe we must be right, or fear that instead of correction we will experience rejection. Why does this have such power to make us so fearful? Because we imagine that our safety, security, substance, supply, and Savior all depend upon us being right. In fact, all of the above depend merely on being in Him. He is the Prince of Peace. And we can trust Him to bring peace to and through us, so long as we choose to live as subjects of His just and righteous government, the Kingdom of God. That is the government which is upon His shoulders.

In a world that appears to be disintegrating, the body of Christ can no longer afford its continued fragmentation, splintering over issues that are unclearly defined—conflicts that need to be brought into greater resolution and focus—which prevent us from relational reconciliation. If The Church refuses to practice the presence of her Prince of Peace, we resign ourselves to witnessing the continuing increase of violence in the wake of injustice, oppression, and exploitation. This is not the gift we seek this Christmas.

Not quite accurate, but you get the idea of Who's in charge.
Therefore, as subjects of the Prince of Peace, may God find us not only willing, but active in pursuing the kinds of dialogue that result in conflict resolution and relational reconciliation, within both The Church and the communities we are called to serve.

Merry Christmas!

p.s. It’s not a Christmas carol, per se. But I’m singing it this morning as I proof-read this post:

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our Father, siblings all are we. [Inclusive language isn’t always as poetic as the original, but there it is.] Let me walk with my siblings in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: To take each moment, and live each moment, in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.” 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The aftermath of Christmas is present, and so is the peace of Jesus. Wrapping paper, left over from yesterday's joyful abundance of gifts, covers the floor. I think of families from America to Somalia who have no money to buy material gifts. I think of the neo-natal promise enfleshed; a King no longer invited to His own birthday. The inner peace that comes from family time centered around American material abundance gives way to sadness over the tremendous economic disparities of this current global social order. I recommit to serve the prince of Peace in whatever way He chooses. I give up my right to the material and physical circumstances of my life. cohort jp

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