|Big Applause for Matt Proctor and his leadership for this Summer's NACC!|
Last week I overheard a woman at Chick-Fil-A getting angry at a local do-good group trying to raise money to feed hungry kids in Uganda. She set her voice on scold before telling them there are hungry kids right here in Johnson City who need their help.
Fair enough. She’s right. It struck me as odd, though, that she immediately proceeded to by a milkshake. Just a milkshake. Her righteous, white hot, indignation against those who would help African children over local children was cooled by a milkshake with little or no nutritional value. The cost of that milkshake could have provided a meal for one hungry child. I suspect she didn’t think of that while she was lecturing the do-gooders.
I wasn’t too put off by her demeanor, though, because I imagine this is simply one of her blind spots. I try to be patient with other people’s blind spots, if only because I have too many times had my eyes opened to my own blind spots. And I’m not looking forward to the next unveiling (there are always more blind spots).
One of my blind spots disappeared not long after my first job in the ministry. My theological training taught me to value the unity of the church. While in school, I bought into the importance of the unity prayer of Jesus in John 17. I talked, brow knitted, about how tragic it is that the church in the world is so divided. I rubbed my hands together over the sad fact that the church is separated by so many denominations. Then I did nothing about the separation.
I was a really good theoretical church unity guy. I soon realized; however, that it’s easy to be a good theoretical church unity guy if you never leave your own ghetto. It’s easy to pretend to be united with Christians you will never spend time with, and possibly never even meet.
That’s why the North American Christian Convention is important--and difficult. It is rubber-meets-road unity training. There are Christians there who overvalue things I don’t value much at all. Sometimes I hear people being a little (maybe even a lot) mean-spirited about things I do value. Despite being a Christian fellowship that isn’t especially diverse in terms of race or social status, we are diverse in other, sometimes discouraging, ways. And, worse than theological differences, sometimes I see people wearing their NACC name badges at restaurants while being demanding, even demeaning, toward wait staff. These kinds of things challenge my unity commitment.
That’s why I don’t talk so big about unity anymore, though I still think it is God’s call to the church. I’ve learned that Christian unity isn’t for the faint-hearted. Hard as it can be, though, if we don’t come together to worship and discuss and serve, then all of our unity talk is but a clanging gong. We either put up, or shut up.
Interestingly, as I’ve continued to attend the convention, I’ve discovered it gets easier; not because I suddenly agree with everybody, but because I’ve gotten to know some of the people with whom I disagree. They have become more real, and more important to me. I like them despite our disagreements; and I appreciate their willingness to gather with the likes of me, a minister with whom they sometimes disagree (but I still take my NACC name badge off when I go to lunch).