Saturday, 13 November 2010

Who's out & who's in?

How much change are we willing to make as different people come in to our churches? Do we really want them to grow, as it means change? Ruth Padilla DeBorst, evidently shaped by a strong sense of cultural and linguistic justice, spoke of this in relation to the Ephesian church. It's not directly in the passage (Eph 2), but came across as she 'set the scene'. I wonder if she doesn't read back today's experience into the first century a bit, but it's helpful to hear her perspective and consider its application to our churches and plants.

So, an imagined description of what might have been the reaction of 1st century Jewish believers in Christ, hearing Ephesians 2: [NB there's a certain poignancy about this, that she was having to address the Congress in English in order to be translated into the other Congress languages - rather than Spanish]
'And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience' Ah, this is about them: the Jewish Christians might have sighed in relief. ... They might have rested assured of their belonging, and believed they owned the right to determine who was in and who was out of the new community being forged by the apostles' teaching. Become like us - the true believers: look at the world through our lenses, and organise your experience into our categories; otherwise, you will only ever be second class. We can tolerate a little colour here and there, a token representative of minority groups, but they must be willing to blend in, to accommodate to our standards and expectations, our jargon, our styles. Yet Paul leaves no room for such smug self-righteousness. He continues: 'We ALL once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of humankind.'
Everyone likes to control who's out and who's in - it's scarily uncomfortable otherwise. So how will we set about obeying: 'Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God', with all the discomfort, culture shock, and change involved?

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