We all tend to put God in a box bounded by our own biases, giftings and sensibilities.
I do it. You do it. We all relate to Jesus within the confines of our own God-given (and sometimes not so God-given) attributes. And we all tend to think our own box defines, or should define, the totality of life, reality and even Jesus Himself.
Maturity, however, is recognizing and affirming Christ – often in others (including their warts and shortcomings) – outside our box.
This is a necessary foundation for true church, and is why we see so much attention given in the New Testament to having different gifts, grace, callings (e.g. Eph. 4) and even doctrinal perspectives (e.g. Rom. 14).
Even with those differences, there is still one body as we learn to recognize and affirm Christ in each other – not despite those differences or by merely tolerating what may seem like “distractions” from our own box. Rather, as we honestly embrace those differences and their complementary strengths, we experience the mutual building up of His Church.
When Boxes Become the New Legalism
Usually there’s nothing inherently wrong with your box or mine. Christ is immanent in each of our boxes – whether they be cultural, theological, attitudinal, generational, or whatever – yet He transcends all boxes.
The problem arises when we limit God – or His people – to our own little box and think it defines the totality of Christ and His purposes. When we do this, we stop becoming the Body of Christ and start becoming a cult.
Often we do this with grand sounding theological pronouncements, like “Christ is all” or that we are God’s “epic purpose”. That sounds good, and is enticing, until you encounter the behind-the-scenes nastiness and subtle dissing – by folks with an otherwise charming public persona – against those who dare suggest there are other perspectives outside their boxes.
You then realize how shallow those slogans really are, as they are used to promote some “apostle”, “worker” or author’s own existential box – and thus dividing rather than building up Christ’s Body.
And what are some of those other perspectives? Simply this: Christ is all, but “all” means more than just Jesus bounded by the box of my own sensibilities. And the grand “epic” really is about reconciling all of God’s creation to Christ’s Lordship, and thus doesn’t stop with just the box bounded by “me” or even “us”. (Col. 1)
Putting God’s people in the box of your own narrow vision and image of Christ, as I’ve said before, is crazy. This new legalism has got to stop.
My Box or Your’s?
My prayer for the Church is that we see our own boxes for what they are, be faithful where God has called us, but also learn to affirm Christ – with His varied purposes and His different gifts – in others.
Only then will we stop implying that we are better than or somehow beyond other segments of His Body, and not fall into the trap of dismissing or marginalizing – even if unintentionally – God’s grace in others.
In my box, I may see things and experience Christ in ways that might exceed you. But it is almost always true that you and your box exceed me in other ways.
Be faithful, then, to your own box – but NEVER in any cultish isolation that’s “beyond” anyone or that seeks to impose your own limited vision of Christ on everyone.
Your box, if legitimate, is where God has called you and that’s His measure of grace for you – but always in the context of learning to embrace His diversity in others.
To truly do this, I must come to recognize that Christ is all – even outside my box. And that’s the rub.
We all tend to think more highly of our own selves, and our own boxes, than we ought. And we marginalize or dismiss what we don’t value.
We may do it with charm and tact, but we do it nonetheless.
Loving Christ’s Multifaceted Body
It’s OK to love the particular distinctive aspects of Christ in your box, but not too much! Embrace what is uniquely Christ in you and among you.
But learn also to love and affirm – and even relate to – what God is doing in others…
Learn to love and affirm how Christ is expressed differently in others…
… both within your own local expression of His body and within the Body of Christ at large.
However, if you have become part of some cultish group that thinks it has some new, deeper life revelation of Christ which demands that you surrender your unique God-given soul and individuality, and they won’t change, then please – for God’s sake – leave and seek healthy fellowship!
Then, maybe – just maybe – we can begin to fulfill Christ’s prayer that we be one – not, God forbid, the same – but one.
One truly glorious, multifaceted, multi-gifted and multi-functional Body of Christ – where we are able to finally affirm and esteem one another, and all our wonderful individual diversity, in love.