Three weeks ago, my worlds collided.
Daniel Kirk & I concluded our teaching series on Philippians with The Open Door Community where, for seven months, we explored and experimented with the Cross-Shaped life. Just before its conclusion, I listened to a powerfully prophetic talk by Ruth Padilla DeBorst at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem. In it, she read from Isaiah 65, helped us to imagine the world that God is making, and empowered us to be the Cross-Shaped community who ushers that world in. Add to that, I had just returned from another unbelievable encounter with Global Immersion where our Learning Community learned from the peacemakers embedded within the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
After studying Philippians, guiding Global Immersion, and reflecting on Ruth’s challenge, I was struck by a new-found awareness of the “in-between” that I and we find ourselves in.
I speak to the “in-between” in this 9 minute talk. The teaching goes from 10:00-19:00 on the recording, but you should probably listen to the story of infertility, adoption, and the cultivating presence of God that unfolds after the talk. Matt & Faye’s story is one of the most powerful stories ever told in an Open Door gathering.
What do I mean by the “In-Between”?
We live our lives in this beautifully bizarre “in-between” space. On the one hand, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus initiated the new world that God is making, and on the other hand, the world God is making is not yet fully realized. It is from within this “in-between” space that we hear Jesus beckon us to follow and, in so doing, experience the fullness & favor that comes with joining Him in what He’s doing.
The more I learn about my own East San Francisco Bay neighborhood, the greater Bay Area, California, my nation, and the world it finds itself in, the more I recognize our “in-between” reality.
Jesus died and rose again, yet, in my neighborhood and in neighborhoods around the world:
- brothers are still killing brothers
- women and children are still being sold for the sexual pleasure of men
- men, women, and children are still owned & used by greedy power brokers
- our streets are still flooded with the tears of mothers who have lost their children to senseless gun violence
- our immigrants still hopelessly hide in fear in the shadows of overcrowded apartments
- our refugees still hold desperately to the keys of their homes and the hope of their “right of return.”
- our indigenous tribes still find themselves sequestered to the corners and restricted to within fences
- our men, women, and children still live out their days in cages to the benefit of the wealthy
- our elderly are still removed from society and tolerated from within institutions
- addiction to chemicals, images, violence still robs the future of untold millions
- our people still go hungry while enough food to feed the world over is thrown away
- our people still build dwellings that they will never live in and plant and harvest fields that they will never own
- our children of the poor still die from curable ailments
- even though there are plenty bedrooms, our little boys and girls are still trapped in a saturated foster-care system without safe places and people to call home
- capitalism still trumps compassion
- consumption still trumps generosity
- my flourishing still trumps yours.
Quite a list, eh? It raises 2 significant questions for me/us: (1) How do we follow Jesus in a world where this list is still reality? (2) What is the world that God is making and how does it become real?
Perhaps these are the very questions Paul was seeking to answer in his letter to the Philippians as he exhorted a community living in a similar “in-between” to live a particular kind of life.
What kind of life did Paul live and invite us into?
It’s a shared life that looks like the Cross. That is, it’s a shared life defined by self-giving oneness and sacrificial generosity. It’s a shared life that is poured out for the sake of human flourishing.
The great surprise for the Philippian community and, no doubt, for our own communities is that rather than joy being found in self-preservation, image management, power brokering, and upward mobility, joy is found as we join God in spending our lives on the flourishing of others. Joy is found as we join God in weaving heaven and earth back together again, especially from within the contexts of our everyday.
As we, together, learn to embody the posture of the Cross for the sake of others, we, too, will experience the fullness and favor that come when we usher in the new world that God is making.
For His is a world where:
- no more will brothers kill brothers
- no more will women & children be exploited for the pleasure of men
- no more will humans be owned by the powerful
- no more will senseless gun violence produce dead kids in our streets
- no more will tears be shed by our mothers
- no more will immigrants hide in fear
- no more will refugees hold keys to doors they don’t own
- no more will indigenous tribes be kicked to the edges
- no more will people be trapped in cages or elderly seen as useless
- no more will addiction have power
- no more will hunger & thirst plague humanity
- no more will children be trapped in a system without families who love them
- no more will capitalism trump compassion
- no more will consumption trump generosity
- no more will my flourishing trump yours.
I give my life to see His world a bit more realized today than it was yesterday.