According to Rob Bell, "When a human is being mistreated, objectified, or neglected - when they are treated as less than human - these actions are actions against God, because how you treat the creation (humanity) reflects how you feel about the creator (God). To be a Christian is to work for what the first Christians referred to as The New Humanity, a phrase that was devised for seeing other people as God sees them. A Church, then, exists to be a display of The New Humanity; a community of people who honor and respect the poor and rich and educated and uneducated and Jew and Gentile and black and white and old and young and powerful and helpless as fully human, created in the image of God. Unfortunately, though, we (often) get it all backward. We see all of our differences first and, only later, maybe, do we begin to see the similarities...but we are all fellow image bearers; we're all created in God's image with the shared task of caring for God's creation."
Something we should all meditate on as we enter into this interim period (for those of you who aren’t aware, Pastor Michael and his family are moving to Indiana), a time that will no doubt be filled with more questions than answers and more uphill climbs than downhill coasting - is not losing sight of who we are, our True Selves both as individuals and as a Church. Take the parable of the Prodigal Son; are we going to take the worldview of the elder son and be the kind of church that does and says all the right things and abides by God's law but that doesn't actually buy into the heart of The Gospel? In other words, are we going to act out of self-motivation and a desire to control God with our goodness rather than because it simply pleases the Father? Or are we going to adopt a younger son worldview and live our lives as people who think they have it all figured out and have no need for family, community, and especially law. No surprise here - neither is the superior path because both are very much apart from God. Self-righteousness and rebellion both separate us from our Heavenly Father, so we must find another way. The New Humanity, it seems, is that way; love over law, a "good for goodness sake" mentality because that is the way of God.
The Gospel - the "good news" - from an ideological perspective is just SO GOOD - the word of God is no doubt a messy business, one that's not for the selfish or faint of heart, but it's absolutely beautiful when done "right". What's burned me up from the inside out for so long about church, something I imagine I'm not alone in, is that so often there just isn't much actual application of The Gospel from those who so devoutly preach it. People who go to Church often say the right things without putting in the works, or when they do, they do so with judgment or agenda. For 20+ years I felt judged, so I, in response, judged back and became a younger son of sorts - talk about missing the forest for the trees and entering into a vicious feedback loop of negativity, which no doubt only amplified over time both in its width and intensity. God created us ALL in His image. We’re miraculously individual yet all very much equal; I’m no better than you and you're no better than me. At our core, we are all one in our humanity, and the moment we forget this or rebel against it, the moment we fall out of alignment with that truth, we are out of alignment God.
A friend of mine recently asked why I loved Simplicity so much and why Kathryn and I have resigned ourselves to fighting and clawing for not only its survival, but it's long term thrival (and, yes, I just said THRIVAL…making up words is fun); I chewed on his question for a little over a week, and the conclusion I finally came to is that we, Simplicity, collectively and as individuals, seem to embody this The New Humanity ideology. Rather than settling for the oversimplification of absolutes - right or wrong, black or white, in or out - we all seem to feel at home living and breathing this creative tension of grace, tolerance, and acceptance. It's who we are because it's what God designed us to be - an image of Him.
Far too often, people, including Christians, overly complicate the simple stuff and overly simplify the complicated stuff; LET'S NOT DO THAT! If we love God, if we love others as He loves, and if we're willing to do God's good work here on earth not because we're a spiritual club seeking membership and trying to fill a quota or control God with our goodness for our own agenda, but because it's God's will, there's truly no limit to what we can and will accomplish or where we can go.
The "here and now" is unknown, and unknown can be scary, but it can also be meaningful and beautiful when it's filtered through love.