“Us” and “Them”

Exactly. This video captures my passion and expresses my life.

Jesus is not about “us” ministering to “them”, or “us” creating cocoons of shared sensibilities as though we are “Beyond” everyone else.

God help us – institutional and organic churches alike.

Hear me on this: God may not call all of us individually to this or to that, but He does call all His people to a big “us” – also known as His Church, the multifaceted Body of Christ.

And in His Church there is no “them” when it comes to His life being expressed in us, among us and through us.

What “us” may look like often is appropriately expressed by different people in different ways, but it never involves marginalizing those who are different than me or at different stages along the path of grace.

I may have an ability or perspective that you lack. But I have yet to meet anyone – and I mean anyone – who does not likewise have abilities and perspectives that exceed me in other areas. Likewise, no church, fellowship or movement will be healthy if it pulls into itself or thinks itself beyond everyone else.

This is true also with our different sub-cultures, theological “tribes”, and the often unexamined presumptions and sensibilities of our own community of like-minded friends.

To be a healthy Body of Christ, we need each other – individually and collectively.

To my institutional church brethren, can I blow your institutional mind? I understand sin, and I am not squeamish about dealing with real crap in people’s lives. But I have been blessed, and learned much, from brothers and sisters who are struggling with addictions, gender identity, incarceration, poverty, homelessness and abuse. They are on the path of grace, even though we each may have different struggles. But together, we find grace as we submit one to another and esteem each other in our differences.

The wonderful, multifaceted Body of Christ

They are not “them” or “other”. They are my brothers and sisters whom I embrace, rather than relate to through arm’s length programs and “ministries”. As we walk together, they teach and challenge and impact me just as much as I them.

Now to my “organic” church brethren, here’s something that will really blow your “organic” mind: I equally affirm those who express Jesus by walking the halls of Congress, organizing their precincts and seeking the blessings of God’s propositional truth for their nation. Or who are analytical and care about doctrine. Or even, God forbid, are liberal or conservative (whether politically, culturally or theologically).

We can disagree, and even debate our differences, so long as you are seeking (like me) – even if imperfectly (like me) – to faithfully reflect Christ in us, among us and through us. What becomes a show stopper is when you insist that God expects me to look or act or think just like you – whether you are middle-class suburban, ‘hood, street, generation x, generation y, postmodern, or whatever.

The real Body of Christ is only “us” – you and me. We are to be co-participants in the life of Christ in us, among us and through us. We are to submit our lives one to another – as diverse and individual parts of the inclusive, wonderful, multifaceted Body of Christ.

Frankly, on this score, both the institutional and the organic community have lots to repent of – one for typically treating folks as “them” and “objects” of charity and compassion, and the other for claiming they are “Beyond” those who don’t reflect their often insular sensibilities.

Can we repent of our arrogance, embrace the “other” and become “us”? That doesn’t mean we become like each other, but we do learn to play our different instruments in a beautiful symphony of shared lives.

Multicultural, multi-generational, multiracial…

Many tribes, many voices…

But all united in Christ as we learn to embrace our common humanity, affirm our diverse experiences, and respect our God-given multifaceted gifts and callings.

If I am sometimes harsh, it is against the cookie-cutter voices within the Body of Christ who act and write as though it is all about “them” and their institutions on the one hand, or their “tribe” and sensibilities on the other hand.

I don’t want to relate to you institutionally through programs and ministries, but neither am I “Beyond” you. Nor are you an object of charity or compassion. You are my brother and sister, and I need you just as much as you need me – differences and all.

So please, let’s stop this nonsense of marginalizing those who are “other”.

Because either way, both within the institutional and the organic communities, it is we who become marginalized when we marginalize “them“.

12 responses

  1. Wow, Jim, you really believe that? How are we supposed to walk with people who affirm the Pope as Christ’s replacement on earth? Or with people who knowingly and unrepentantly preach another gospel? Or with the Calvanists who openly declare that God hates people, and many are predestined to hell without question or grace?
    Please read 1 John 2………..the apostle under the tutorlidge of the Holy Spirit disagrees with you as well…….
    By the way, the Holy Spirit is Christ’s replacement on earth, so that makes the popes claim to be the Vicar of Christ as blasphemy.
    Need to rethink this one, Jim…..

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    • I was enriched by some of the writings of Pope John Paul II, especially on human life. I have learned that Catholics often are more Christ like than my fundamentalist brethren. And we’ve worked with each other in areas where God has brought together our different gifts and abilities. I clearly disagree with them to the extent they hold the doctrines you mention (although I’ve found that few Catholics meet your stereotypes).

      Yes, I have doctrinal differences with the Catholic church. OK, now what? Do I marginalize our shared humanity in Christ simply for that reason? Are you saying the life of Christ can’t be found in a Catholic man or woman?

      We can disagree, without being disagreeable.

      We can cooperate without compromising our distinctions.

      We can affirm what we share in common, without selling out our convictions.

      I can esteem what Christ has uniquely placed in you, without degrading what Christ has uniquely given me.

      BTW, when I wrote this, the Catholic/Protestant divide was not even something I was thinking about. But I guess I can see how you took it that way.

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    • Hmmm … the two Catholics that I know really, really well (and I’m related to one of them) do NOT believe that the Pope is Christ’s replacement on earth but affirm that the Holy Spirit is. There are some powerful, true believers in the Catholic church and, as in Protestantism, those who are not.

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  2. Very good Jim, a friend and I were discussing something along these very lines yesterday. Not being so rigid on our perspectives of doctrine,that we still look through a glass dimly. That allow for differing opinions, different ways of expression. That we all think we are certain we are hearing from God, and possibly we are, that this was the multifaceted Body at work in almost a divine checks and balances, all necessary, all needed and honored alike.

    One thing I have noticed, a new way to designate “us and them” is “healed and wounded”. By labeling one “wounded” they can be marginalized, thereby rendering them without merit.

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  3. Great post! I wish they would get it like we do. oops… :)

    Seriously, it’s so easy to fall into the “us” vs. “them” mentality. But, when considering people who are in Christ, there are only us… no them. This is the perspective of God, and the perspective of the Holy Spirit within us. If it is not our perspective, then we are not submitting to God in this.

    -Alan

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      • Thank you for acknowledging my superior intellect and spiritual insight. I’m surprised you didn’t say anything about how good looking I am.

        Seriously, thanks for the kind words about my blog, and thanks again for this post and pointing us toward unity in Christ.

        -Alan

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  4. beautiful/profound video and your thoughts, thanks for sharing!
    yes we are them.
    we can get into a mess trying to erect dividing walls, god has torn down in christ.
    God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble… and it so happens there are humble and proud people in every sphere and expression of society. add to that there is some pride in all of us. Jesus had a lot of time for people who knew they were in need of him, no matter their background.

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  5. Pingback: We are part of the body of Christ with them | The Assembling of the Church

  6. Not sure where you guys are headed with this one size fits all theology, except to say that if you believe all roads lead to Rome, then you are probably right. That is what the anti Christ and the false prophet are proffering as a way of life for all, but Jesus had a different view. Jesus said John 17 20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; (AU)even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, (AV)so that the world may believe that (AW)You sent Me.

    Their Future Glory
    22 The (AX)glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 (AY)I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that (AZ)You sent Me, and (BA)loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that (BB)they also, whom You have given Me, (BC)be with Me where I am, so that they may see My (BD)glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before (BE)the foundation of the world.
    We are to become one with Him…..not with anything else. His family does have exclusive entry…..the narrow way Jesus spoke of…..go the broad way if you like, but we are promised destruction down that path. Your choice
    25 “O (BF)righteous Father, although (BG)the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that (BH)You sent Me; 26 and (BI)I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that (BJ)the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

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