Sitting in a group the other day, I/we heard the story of a young girl’s coming to Christ. She’d been running with a drug crowd. Her boyfriend was a “loser” (at least, that’s the way the presenter described him). Coming to a higher vision of her life and coming to a vision of Christianity (which came first, one could ask?), she eventually saw the need for lifestyle adjustments. And, among the adjustments? She told this “loser” that she was through with drugs and the drug crowd… and with him.
While the story could and can “preach” in many directions, what caught my attention in that group – and what becomes the center of this post – was, in part, the response of one group member: “Just like the church to leave someone outside.” (“Outside,” I guess, referring to the “spurned” boyfriend – the “loser.”) Of course, this was not the only response. Indeed, mine was a response of how beautiful the results can be when someone gets a vision of and for their lives. If it’s true, as the Proverb puts it, that “without a vision, the people parish,” then here’s it’s corollary: with a vision, the people flourish and live and move forward in life!
It’s the confluence of these responses which provokes me here, now: where one sees the exclusivity of the Church and another, using the same story, sees the powerful implications of the Gospel in the lives of Soul. Same story and yet such contrary conclusions and interpretations!
Not sure I have a good resolution or answer. I’m beginning to see, in fact, that many such stories do not demand such resolution as much as they serve to raise really good questions. In this case, the question is one of how can we – as Christians, as Church – live in the world without being of that world? How can we navigate that tension, that paradox which Jesus lived: at once, “dining with tax collectors and sinners” (and all that implied in that day and age)… and yet telling those he encountered, “your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more”??
Again, I’m learning that as valuable as polished answers are really good questions… and living those questions (every bit as much as we work to live out our “answers”).