The following post is from Andrew Marin, President and Founder of The Marin Foundation
The core of reconciliatory engagement must always be love. Love, in such a pure form, that the self-giving nature, some would even say humiliation, of Christ, is the central point to one’s understanding of the ever-reaching ramifications of the incarnation. Our incarnational work as bridge builders sets one foot in both worlds–identifying with both, while only representing Christ. This “de-centered center,” as Miroslav Volf puts it, enables us to live within culture’s fluidity, affirm its diverse hybridity, and yet not let it be a threat to the purity of our core identity.
Though what I don’t understand is the ease in which a variety of respected theologians I have been reading recently continue referencing “God’s perfect love” as the default response against any critiques of what compels one to engage in reconciliation. I find their response a copout. “God’s perfect love,” which has legs in the theological-banter-world, means absolutely nothing to those outside the faith. Using the Bible as moral justification to someone who does not view the Bible as a morally legitimate tool is like standing in a garage and trying to convince your next door neighbor you are a car.
Or, worse yet, expounding on about “God’s perfect love” to those of the faith who have been irrevocably changed by [repeating] moments in time not reflecting anything close to such love. Love must not be an abstract in order for contemporary masses to understand it—yet, even for one person.
As a bridge builder who believes in Jesus, I must contemplate the reality of the tension between felt-betrayal, -suffering, -evil, -exploitation, -exclusion, -violence, -conflict; and how God embraced all of those deep feelings, fears, hatred, and insecurities inside of us, through Jesus Christ on the cross.
How does one remain loyal to both the justice for the oppressed and to the forgiveness that Jesus-crucified offered the perpetrators?
The ultimate conclusion to such contemplation ends with an answer to the following question:
The chosen state of humiliation when one lets themselves step into the disconnect and take both waring factions’ burdens upon themselves to provide space for redemption, opens the floodgates for all onlookers to have unrequested opinions:
You’re doing the right thing.
You’re doing the wrong thing.
You’re doing it for the right motives.
You’re doing it for the wrong motives.
You’re not sincere.
You have a hidden agenda.
You don’t have a hidden agenda.
To any of these your response must always be:
Does it really even matter what other’s, even those closest to me, think about the choice the Lord is compelling me to live within?
We must wrap our minds around the blatant fact that greatest limitation in seeking reconciliation is not that reconciliation does not work, but that even with the progress of tangible forgiveness, peace, dignity, and shifting outlooks, new conflicts and disagreements will continually be generated. Even so, I still believe engaging in such spaces are worth every second to live into the life of the humiliation, burden, and effort that Christ modeled for all his followers.
These days I see segmented arguments within the Christian world about the church go viral all over the interwebs. Why are millennials leaving the church? Why are millennials staying in the church? Maybe these catchy questions give Christian writers something to write about? I don’t know. I don’t really care, either.
What I do know and what I do care about is making sure those who claim Jesus’ name actually live like the man; not just write about what would keep millennials in a contemporary version of church the man never created.
But, if those who claim Jesus’ name do begin to live like the man, in even close to as widespread of numbers as those who do claim his name, there will be no need for the numbing amounts of input over who has the best non-statistical analysis of who is leaving the church [see: opinion] or the best statistical analysis of who is staying in the church (which, by the way, I think is very informative). Instead, everyone will be too busy loving people into the Church by placing themselves in humiliation’s way for another’s burden because that is what Jesus did. It’s a very simple concept–one just needs enough boldness to actually do it one situation at a time.