A 1955 novel by John Wyndham, titled The Chrysalids, had considerable impact on my thinking as a young reader. It told the tale of a group of young people who were born with the ability to communicate via telepathy. They lived in a strict religious community where anyone ‘abnormal’ was banned, so these powers had to be kept secret. The book was filled with close encounters with the theological ‘police,’ including some hilarious escapes, as I recall. (one humorous aside if I may – The youngest member of this clandestine group had difficulty mastering his abilities, such that, each time he ‘communicated,’ his message was received by the others in the form of ear-piercing, tooth-rattling, screams.)
Unfortunately, the tendency of that community to create a scenario of ‘us/them’ (who’s in/who’s out, who’s acceptable/who’s not) has beleaguered mankind since the Fall. It continues to snarl relationships (and progress) on many levels of society worldwide today. Sadly, the Church has not escaped unscathed.
One of the mantras of our Vineyard Movement that I love so much, has been, ‘Everybody gets to play.’ John Wimber was convinced that when God called us to Himself, it was not to transport us immediately out of the world. Rather, as Jesus said, we were meant ‘to be in the world, but not of it.’ The upshot of this ‘y’all come’ commitment is that there are ‘diamonds in the rough’ in the crowd, folks streaming in to fellowship who have no spiritual couth, no spiritual language, no ‘churchy’ background, just a need to belong, to be loved – in short, sometimes it’s pretty messy.
What’s so cool about the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches he planted, was that they were just like our Vineyard churches! I’ll bet they even started their services on a sliding scale. Paul was obligated to outline the perks of their new, in-Christ life and how they were, in turn, to re-shape their former lives. There’s a lot written about followers of Jesus casting off (the old) and putting on (the new). The one thing not mentioned is their inappropriateness for belonging to the family of God. There was simply a need for these new believers to grow in their understanding, to add to their lifestyles, the things Jesus taught. No big changes happened overnight. They were part of the process, the journey. They required intentionality, just like our changes do. We’ll settle in to some encouragement for our journey in one of Paul’s letters tomorrow, 10 AM, 4 PM. See y’all then. PD