Where Green Things Grow
James and John (sons of..."thunder"?), Peter (the "rock" to his face, the "mouth" behind his back), Thomas (the one who doubted became the only of the twelve to leave the Empire), Judas (betrayer, but no one suspected a thing?), Matthew (tax collector, but Judas kept the treasurer's box?), Simon (the revolutionary), etc. I mean, blue collar, white collar, bloody knuckled; wealthy, poor, subsistence; talkers, thinkers, schemers, do-ers; guys who cut deals, guys who cut and run, and guys who cut off ears.
If God were trying to get together a more disparate group of first century Jewish men, He'd be hard pressed to do better than these twelve.
Perhaps that is exactly what His plan was.
You and I would pick a team of like-minded brethren who could get stuff done! Christ picked rascals from polar ends of the political, economic, and personality spectrum. The only thing they--usually--had in common was they were willing--usually-to walk behind Jesus.
And it's to this group that Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
First, that makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, if this group can love each other, then perhaps there is a Resurrecting Creator-God who loves us enough to die to pay for our sins. The unlikeliness of this "team" loving each other makes their more bizarre claims plausible.
Second, this helps us appreciate our Local Church, doesn't it? From the beginning we've not been a kumbahyah-organization, but rather a herewegoagain-patchwork. Tired arguments, retreaded struggles, personality clashes, etc.
Now that this is pointed out to me, it's obvious. Only the most belligerent Bible reader would look for anything from a Local Church but a rag-tag bunch of fluctuatingly Christ-centered men and women very different from each other. But, of course, we are belligerent Bible readers. We overlay our fantasies on the facts of Scripture. "If only they'd... If only we'd..." Humbug! This is, has been, and will be the church. Sure, you can organize religious gatherings where no one knows anyone, or where everyone pretends to be the same, or, scariest, where everyone is kind-of the same. But it's not a church if there's no bridges between the constituent parts--love ain't no thing if it's natural affinity; it's got to be stretching, reaching, growing, or it's not Christ's holy love in us.
All this to say, friends, if there's people in the church that bug you, great! How else would the Spirit help you become more patient, kind, and loving? Kiss your mirror every day, but you'll never grow. It's in the mess and swirl of frustrating saved-sinners that we supersize.
All that to say, friends, move toward the anxiety. Enter the pain! My best teachers have been my most difficult friends--and hey, I've done more than my share of unintentionally helping others grow in Christlikeness. Backing away is necessary at times, to heal, reconnect with Jesus, but, following Christ here, we back away for a season only to push deeper forward.
Nothing is more humbling than reaching the end of your rope with other people's problems. And into that humility, grace flows.
And where grace flows, green things grow.
Great Podcast about neighborliness and place, inspiring and applicable to our Disciple-Making mission: Loving the Place You Live.