America is being squeezed. I’m looking at the results of the squeeze in America, and it’s not all good stuff.
In the past week, I’ve spoken with THREE different people who are wresting with their faith BECAUSE of encounters they’ve had with people in their faith family. The question that ALL THREE of these people asked me is “Am I Safe Here?”
One was a black man who had concerns with some things he saw people posting online and wondered if this was a safe place to raise his kids.
One was a white woman who had concerns with what felt like passive aggressiveness & superiority from a male coworker.
One was a white male who has some progressive political and religious leanings and was feeling concerned about whether or not this was a safe place for him to wrestle.
Truth is, right now
WE ARE A PEOPLE WHO ARE DIVIDED
- social status
When the gap becomes uncrossable, feels unsafe, seems uncertain, then we look for a bridge.
WE NEED BRIDGES
A BRIDGE is attractive.
A BRIDGE is safe.
A BRIDGE is connected to both sides, but does not identify with either.
-the bridge is not so focused on being right as it is focused on being strong.
A BRIDGE provides stability within the ever-changing, shifting nature of each side.
-it’s more about support than direction.
A BRIDGE accepts and receives all people, from both sides.
-it’s inclusive but not affirming.
A BRIDGE is okay when people leave, pass through, and even loiter (but its not okay with people jumping).
If we believe, love and live the true gospel, we will become an attractive, safe place – connected to both sides but not identifying with either, providing spiritual and emotional stability in an unstable world, and even though we are an incredible part of a person’s journey – it’s never about us.
Paul deals with the division in the church by giving them a BRIDGE, the true gospel.
Scripture: Galatians 2:11-21
11But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision.
Essentially, God was showing Peter that He was BRIDGING THE GAP between Jews and Gentiles.
He was taking what once was divided, and he was uniting it. He was creating a way of unity in the midst of the chaos of disunity. This is what the gospel does. It brings people together, and unites them. Enemy love is the heart of the gospel. IT does not affirm your way, but rather, shows you a third way, a third option, it begs and beckons us to meet in the middle.
And so, Peter started to eat with Gentiles, but when some Jews from Jerusalem show up, Peter withdraws and goes back to his old ways of not even eating with Gentiles, like they had a disease and he might catch it.
13As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
15“You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. 16Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”
17But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! 18Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.
Paul starts explaining the gospel to him! Which may seem condescending, but Paul is saying, C’mon Peter! You know we are not made right because of something about us, or something we eat or don’t eat or do or don’t do, but because we accept Christ’s righteousness as our own.
We are completely accepted and loved as sons and daughters of God. That’s the basis of our acceptance, and when we really embrace this true gospel it tears down any sense of superiority or division we might feel toward someone else.
20My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
In this story, Paul doesn’t go on a rant about the do’s and don’ts of being a Christian, he instead shows us how to gospel bridges the gaps, and he also shows us how the gaps got there in the first place!
We are always trying to justify ourselves: to set ourselves apart from others. We look for something or someone to identify with, to be our “righteousness.” Constantly in competition with others because the essence of pride is that it is competitive. I have to protect and defend my personal uniqueness because that gives me value and worth above others.
What are the things that we lean heaviest on to distinguish us from others? To make us feel better than, or accepted, or valuable?
Race, Status, Religion, Political views, Ideas, achievements and other accomplishments.
#1 – The Gospel Bridges The RACE GAP.
For some, their ethnic identity becomes a way of distinguishing ourself above others. So, they take pride in their American-ness, or their blackness, their Southernness, or their Asian-ness, Indian culture, or Hispanic-ness. Or whatever. A racial distinctive makes them who they are and forms their identity.
Our cultures are beautiful things, created by God to reflect his glory. But when it becomes our primary, distinguishing identity, it causes division. You become really proud of and protective and defensive of your culture, because your culture gives you a sense of identity and sets you apart. So much of our division in the church is because our secondary identity begins to rival with our primary identity as a citizen of Heaven.
#2 – The Gospel BRIDGES the social status gap.
Do you think some personal accomplishment or characteristic sets you apart and justifies you before others?
Do you see people in categories:
successful vs unsuccessful, intelligent vs dumb, beautiful vs ugly, fit vs fat, rich vs poor.
Do you look down on those who are “less” than you are in these areas, or do you feel intimidated by those who are “more” than you?? In Christ, there is no place for allowing social status to separate us.
#3 – Lastly, the gospel bridges the RELIGION & POLITICS gap.
-Religious behavior does not “distinguish” us. Have you lived a moral or religious life? Have you avoided certain “sins”? Do you feel a sense of pride because you have lived a good life? And so now you feel a sense of distinction, even superiority, over others who have done any of these things?
-Political Ideals do not “distinguish” us. If you think your political affiliation gives you a moral high ground, or your political ideas are superior to another, then you are lost in secondary identities.
Ultimately, you need to know that, in Christ, NOTHING makes you better or superior to ANYONE ever. When God sees you, he doesn’t see you – he sees himself. He sees Jesus.
Your identity is to one who is clothed with Christ’s righteousness and filled with Christ’s resurrection power. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to reflect Jesus and BE A BRIDGE!
In Christ…you are an attractive, safe place – connected to both sides but not identifying with either, providing spiritual and emotional stability in an unstable world, and even though we are an incredible part of a person’s journey – it’s never about us. It’s all about Jesus.