Scattered For God’s Sake
All that scattering is for the sake of the Mission of God, a mission that has nothing to do with uniformity, but rather asks for unity among those who would undertake it. It may not be comfortable or neat or easy, but as the church it is our mission. – Andy Bryan, “Unity and The Sin Of Babel”, United Methodist Insight, October 2, 2015
I’m going to share a story out of school as it were. Lisa and I are in the midst of a disagreement centering on my appearance. I have to admit part of it is rooted in what is probably a mid-life crisis of one kind or another. At the same time, it has to do with expressing who I am. For several years I’ve worn my hair very closely cropped – almost a buzz cut. I’ve been letting my hair grow out for several months and it’s past that awkward stage and beginning to wave and curl. I haven’t decided for sure if I’m going to just allow it to continue growing or get dreadlocks. It has to be a minimum of three inches long for that. I’m also growing out my goatee while keeping the rest of my beard short so that, when it gets long enough, that can be braided.
Why the big change? To express who I am. I’ve never fit in to any particular group. When I was in Seminary, one of the faculty I respected a great deal, Mark Burrows, said to me, “One of the things I really admire about you is you get along with everyone.” Now, I honestly don’t know if that’s true. I think I tried to get along with everyone; more to the point, however, my effort to get along with different types of people comes from the fact that I just don’t fit in with any single group. Furthermore, I’ve never tried to fit in to one group. Where’s the fun in that? I’ve always figured it’s better to have all sorts of different kinds of people in one’s life. How else do you learn and grow? How else do you share all sorts of experiences with others if the folks you call acquaintances and friends are all like you? That’s boring.
One of the most important theological lessons I learned in Seminary was that God wants us to be us. We were each of us created to be who and as we are. Our life, all the things that go to make up who we are, they are our most precious possessions. God uses that uniqueness in specific ways to achieve the ultimate divine end – the Kingdom in which the New Creation exists to give our God the glory. The salvation offered in the crucified and risen Jesus comes to each of us as we are, calling us to be who we were created to be for the glory of God. The freedom we enjoy is the freedom to surrender care for ourselves to serve others. It is also the freedom to do so with the unique gifts only each of us has. For me, part of the uniqueness is appearing as one who does not fit in anywhere because this world, in the end, is not my home.
Ours is a world with so many enforced conformities. Labels get attached so easily, and short-hand summaries of others are far too easy to come by. It is part of that sin of Babel Andy Bryan points out: The urge toward uniformity less God scatter us. Uniformity and conformity flow from an unfaithful fear of God’s wrath. As the early chapters of Genesis make clear, ours are lives spent going out in to the world; in the Great Commission makes clear, this “going forth” is part of our identity as Christians. It is that to which calls us. Going out to the world, being scattered for the sake of the Kingdom should offer us the kind of freedom to show the world, “This is who I am as one beloved child of God!”
When I was in Seminary, I attended Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church because it was just across the street from American University. The pastor at the time, Rev. William Holmes, sent us forth with the best benediction ever: “Now go! And be the scattered Body of Christ at work in the world!” Part of being that “scattered body”, of not becoming ensnared in the Babel trap, of following the command to spread across the Earth, to preach the Good News from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth, is allowing ourselves to be the person God created us to be. Be willing to express that so the person God created can be a sign of what is possible through God’s saving and perfecting grace.
I still haven’t decided on the whole dreadlocks thing. On the other hand I do know that being part of the scattered Body of Christ means that I’m just one small yet unique part of a massive whole aiming toward bringing about the Kingdom of Peace for the Glory of God. How I look isn’t important at all compared to getting out there and being and doing the call I hear each day in new ways.