The Tension

JOHN 17:11–19

We have been called out of the world by Jesus. But he has left us here to live in the world. Christians have responded to this tension in different ways. Some have withdrawn into closed communities. In one city we lived in there was a church whose inward and defensive mentality was graphically displayed by their architecture. The building was low to the ground with narrow windows. It looked to me like an elaborate bunker on the side of the hill from a World War II movie. Even their marquee at the road was small castle tower. Definitely a defensive mentality. “We are Christians. Keep the world out.” (I’m overstating to make my point, of course; there were lots of sincere Christians there who did want to reach out.)

On the other hand, some Christians have let down the boundaries between the church and the world altogether. Their desire is to be relevant, contemporary and socially in touch. In the same city as the defensive church was another whose architecture graphically displayed its mentality as well. The approach to the church was up a sweeping, curving drive through shaded oaks. It was set in a beautiful and affluent neighborhood. The church itself was a colonial structure of red brick and white columns set on a hill. (Actually it looked similar in architecture to my present church. I like the style.) When you went there, you were bound to run into the city’s leading citizens. There were lots of social activities but few that had to do with worship and mission. (Of course there were godly believers there as well.)

Then there are those Christians who struggle to live in the middle of the tension. In the same city was a third church that met for several years in a local school building. Not because they didn’t have money for a new building, but because they wanted to use their money for mission, compassion, education and evangelism. When you stepped inside, you were warmly greeted by those in suits and those in sandals. There were businessmen and rock musicians. There were leading citizens and social nobodies. What they had in common was love of God, a common identity as fellow believers and a sense of responsibility for those who were not yet a part of God’s family. Eventually, this church built a building, a large one that was very well equipped. However, they took with them their creative tension. The issue is not the building but our sense of Christian identity and mission. We are to be in, but not of, the world.

Jesus wants us to live in the tension, and we can only do it by the power of his prayer.

Approach

Picture yourself with one hand up toward the Lord and one out toward the world. Consider your sense of balance: are you oriented more one way than the other?

Stephen D. Eyre and Jacalyn Eyre

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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