There’s been a lot of ugliness in the past couple of weeks. But I believe that God brings beauty out of the ugly. Even when it feels like the walls are closing in and the ugly is smearing everything I hold dear—I’ve staked my life on the belief that the beauty God brings is more convincing than the ugly that soils.
What strikes me most about the ugly conversation swirling around the Syrian refugee crisis is how incredibly clear we’ve drawn the lines between “Us” and “Not-Us.”
What strikes me most about the beauty of the gospel is how completely it blurs the lines between “Us” and “Not-Us.”
Of course, we aren’t the first ones to stumble over our own sense of nationalism. The people of God in the Old Testament devoted centuries to drawing lines and building walls between Us and Not-Us: Israel was In, and everyone else was Out. Year after year, century after century, brick after brick.
Until the good news of peace tore down that damned wall of hostility. Until Jesus brought peace. Until Jesus turned two people groups into one. Until the first Christians shifted from a national perspective to a kingdom perspective.
And so it was that the first churches were the most radical, revolutionary, progressive gatherings in the whole Roman Empire. Church was where masters and their slaves met around the table as equals. The rich and poor, citizens and foreigners, Jews and Gentiles, barbaric and civilized, male and female. Jesus says that none of it matters anymore. Not nationality, not political party, not economic status, not even family. The only line that exists anymore is Jesus. We have a new family.
Of course, the line between Us and Not-Us doesn’t have a lot of practical value. This is the beauty God brings out of the ugly; we treat Not-Us as if they were Us. After all, the church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of Not Us.
But, for anyone who still insists on the lines between Us and Not-Us, do not forget that we have a new family. America is not our first family. Ethnicity is not our first family. Shared neighborhoods, wallet-sizes, or convictions are not our first family. The gospel has given us a new family.
The trouble is, like many aspects of the gospel, if this never offends us, then we probably aren’t paying attention.
This is the brush God holds when He paints beauty:
The Syrian refugee who follows Jesus is more a part of our family than our unbelieving brother who sits at our Thanksgiving table.
The Christian living in the Gaza Strip is more aligned to our cause than the non-believing Jew living in Jerusalem.
When Black Lives Matter protestors who love Jesus meet cops who love Jesus on the street, they are joined by a stronger bond than what they share the protestor or cop to their right and left.
The Christ-follower who works at Planned Parenthood and the Pro-Life picketer who follows Jesus are more family with each other than they are with their own unbelieving children.
“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”
May God bring beauty from the ugly that threatens to swallow us whole.
May we redraw our lines between Us and Not-Us.
(But this is only half the story. To read the other half, read Part 2)