I’ve realized between last night and today that you don’t hear a whole lot about what people are “for.” Mostly, we hear about what people are against. In fact, you are much more likely to know what your friends and family are against than you are to know what they’re for. Sadly, this is especially true among Christians. I’m sure you’d get more answers from the man or woman on the street about what Christians are against than what they are for!
So it was with great urgency that Austin Brown taught us last night about living lives that are for the things God is for, and specifically lives that are broken open for reconciliation, the fundamental marker of the kingdom of God. What truth Austin shared when she reminded us that the tables at which we typically find ourselves (dinner, coffee, board, executive, leadership) seat people who look and think just like us. Our tables reinforce over and over what we already believe to be true about people who are not like us and the issues of our day. So when we see things on the news about unrest, protests, riots, and violence, we become uneasy and fear disruption, causing us to retreat to the circles and tables filled with the people who will reaffirm what we believe whether or not it is accurate, fully formed, or one-sided.
To call us to something more, something that reflects God’s character and heart, Austin walked us through the time Jesus entered the temple courts in Jerusalem and turned over tables with a fire we don’t often associate with Him. In this story, we find three learnings:
- Jesus declared first his vision for what should be. He said, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations…’” (Mk 11:17; Mt 21:13)
- Jesus identified how the people had fallen short. After his first statement, he said, “But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mk 11:17; Mt 21:13)
- Jesus modeled what he said. Just after making these declarations, Jesus invited the blind and lame – the untouchables – to come to him in the temple. (Mt 21:14)
Out of this poignant and relevant teaching, Austin invited us into the practice and lifestyle of protest. (Although the word protest has come to mean “against,” it originally meant to declare or testify. For example, people accused of crimes would “protest their innocence,” meaning “declare their innocence.”) In other words, she asked us to model Jesus in the temple courts by declaring with fire what we are for, identifying the ways in which we have fallen short of that vision, and modeling what we declare with our lives.
Jesus broke himself open to reconcile us, in the midst of our brokenness, to God. He has called us to do the same: to break ourselves open to be reconciled to each other.
This week, I’m sitting with the handout we received last night, with its large-print, fill-in declaration: I am for ___________.
And, I’ll be praying for God’s guidance with these two prayers:
God, what is the gap between my desire (what I’m for) and my actual life?
God, what is one step I can take this week to begin bridging that gap?
I hope you’ll join me in this.
May you disrupt your tables in protest, to declare what God is for and take a step to reconcile what is broken and in need of healing.
Grace and peace,
For those of you who weren’t there or would like to listen again, you can listen to Austin’s message here below or on The Practice Podcast.