Yesterday, Walter mentioned that bumper sticker that I actually see with some regularity. It has the word “coexist” written using all the different religious symbols which people might claim as their own. He referenced it as a good thing that we should all be able to live together without killing each other, but that we should want more than that. For example, if I were to describe my marriage as a situation where Terrell and I “coexist”, I hope you would find that sad. A marriage where two people coexist may at best indicate a lack of bickering, but it also implies not really interacting much at all. I picture a death occurring in the house but people just step over the body to get a cup of coffee, some essential part of their humanity lost in the numbness. To coexist seems to indicate parallel lives, not raucous celebrations or knock-down-drag-out fights either, just shared space. I find it interesting that on the whole, we as human beings seem to prefer a state of coma-like existence to any scenario which might provoke disagreement or a disruption, even if it means a home or community or church full of dead bodies.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19:10
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— Col. 1:19-22
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:14-19
Look at this pattern of the Gospel which pushes me past being satisfied with coexistence to something more vibrant, more dynamic, more disruptive and more life giving! He has pursued me to reconcile me to Himself, not because I am so winsome, but because the fullness of God’s character, plan and redemptive purpose prescribe it. So, when I settle for “peace faking” in my relationships rather than enter the mess of genuine peace making, I am settling for something less than God is content to do with me. His love compels me, not as a new law but only as a product of His Spirit at work within me, to live a life of reconciliation with those who are as equally in need of His mercy and forgiveness and grace as I am.
And then the pendulum swings to the other side and snares me almost every time – the person and work of Jesus not only calls me out of sleep walking, but asks that I extend the same patience, compassion and love to others that He extends to me regularly. What I mean is this: I can get so exuberant about the Good News of Jesus’ mercy extended to me that I can disdain anyone who doesn’t see what very good news it is, nor that they need it. Suddenly I become angry with those who may even oppose this grace I have been given, as if we just signed our own selves up for competing teams. (How does my faith, for example, get tangled up and joined to political teams?) Rather than coma-like, peace faking coexistence, my other tendency is to just want to crush those who are not lined up with every nuance of my thinking on every point. Oh how grateful I am that this is not how Jesus deals with me!
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt. 5:44-48
I love that the Gospel always offers me a third way. Jesus isn’t picking me for a team but calling me to Himself because apart from Him I can do nothing. This third way is only possible because of the person and work of Jesus, both in His complete fulfillment of the Law on my behalf and His work in and through me now. Do I believe what He said, that once I was His enemy (and sometimes keep trying to be!), or have I convinced myself otherwise? Only when I see myself as the one who still does not see in full can I love genuinely the “enemy” or parallel living individual who also doesn’t see Jesus clearly. Only when I realize how deeply I need a Redeemer, not a set of core values, can I start hearing the same tunes being sung by the hearts of others who may not even realize their need nor that it has been met. Reconciliation requires change, which God alone can effect in the hearts of men. This change comes by His person and His work and invites me into something so much richer than merely a coexistence with or crushing of those around me. Oh may I seek peace and pursue it, not by me natural means but with the same love, perseverance and sacrifice with which Jesus reconciled me to Himself.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 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 once were 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 peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Eph. 2:11-18