People in our culture aren’t just polarized, we are hyper-polarized. Pluralism has turned into factionalism. This is true, sadly, even in the church, where people carry their bag of various factions to the table and cannot display genuine kindness to someone with a different bag. The bag may be filled with stances on American or global politics, convictions about ministry philosophy or doctrine, principles for raising children, or deep seeded concerns about social issues like caring for the Earth, abortion or LGBTQ rights. How is it possible for a community with all these different bags to shine in a way that is counter-cultural?
It is only possible when an alien love exists. That is, when a foreign, yet amazing love from another place breaks into a community. This is the constant biblical message of what must take place in the church. The undeserved, immeasurable love of God that he has shown us in Christ must grab hold of the church in such a way that we are no longer defined, nor do we define others, by our earthly commitments or factions. Notice these words from the Apostle Paul written to various churches:
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:11-14)
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind…" (1 Corinthians 13:1-4).
No one, no church, has the natural ability to display genuine kindness to people who are different from them or who hold opposing values. Yet, this is the ideal to which God commands his church to conform.
At Red Tree, in response to the gospel of our loving God who has shown great kindness to us, and in reliance upon Holy Spirit, we strive to display kindness to one another, even those who believe and live differently. In this, we are counter-cultural, not centered on ourselves, but centered on the love of Christ and committed to showing this kindness to all.