Join us on The Great Reset (via Zoom or YouTube Live at Tue Jan 5, 2020 at 1PM PST) as Ernie pitches a framework for tying together our recent themes of discipleship, reconciliation, and loving more like Jesus.
Question: Is there a single thing that both causes and sustains “train wrecks” (i.e., cascades of broken relationships)? If so, can it be inverted to provide a cure?
Perspective: Yes, abjection (i.e. dissociating self from what is toxic or outside our control). The tragedy is that abjection is essential for identity in both groups and individuals, yet ultimately destructive of the larger context. The cure is to follow Christ by incarnating into what was abjected, and overcome it by the power of the cross.
The Right Question
For most of The Great Reset, we have been seeking models and techniques of discipleship that could help the Body of Christ better fulfill the Greatest Commandments and Great Commission (which we sometimes summarize as “loving more like Jesus”). Recently, however, we have been “distracted” by attempts to confront and reconcile broken relationships.
I choose to interpret this as God in His mercy showing us the answer to the question we should have been asking: what has the Body of Christ (including us) lost sight of, that makes us susceptible to “train wrecks” and therefore ineffective at loving more like Jesus?
The Right Problem
During Season 5, we began talking about “vulnerably encountering Jesus through His Word & Spirit, Body & Blood.” Being Discipled by Scripture (aka WEIRD DBS) was helpful for encountering His “Word & Spirit” — but what about His “Body & Blood“? What practices do we need to love more like Jesus in precisely those areas where we are deaf and blind to His Word and Spirit?
Almost The Answer
I use a framework called the “Ladder of Learning” to help me understand mastery across disciplines (including discipleship):
My primary claim is that it is easiest to learn bottom-up (starting with belonging) — but easiest to teach top-down (ending with belonging).
In particular, the simplest way to motivate people to absorb ideas and follow procedures is to make them a condition for membership (or at least status) within the group. There are sound psychological, sociological, and political reasons why pretty much every society (large or small) has some minimum standards for behavior and shared beliefs. Abjection in some form seems an essential part of human development. If we never learn to sublimate our anti-social impulses, we fail to flourish either as individuals or as members of society.
This appears to have been true of Christianity since the first or second century, when bishops (as they became “priests” before that term was expanded to presbyters) decided who was eligible to take communion (hence, excommunication as a form of abjection). And despite all the problems it has caused, it is hard to imagine Christianity surviving without those who courageously abjected what they saw as toxic.
The Right Answer
But what is striking to me is that Christ did the opposite. His holiness did not consist of distancing Himself from sin. Rather, He incarnationally identified with it.
But rather than condoning sin by merely accepting sinners, He destroyed it on the cross by redeeming us. And replaced our sin with His Spirit, so that we might become His Body. So we might do the exact same thing for others — only greater!
I believe all the relational challenges we have faced the last two seasons of The Great Reset have been God’s mercy to show us that merely human abjection (anger at, and rejection of, sin) is not enough. Even the pagans do that; merely using a better Law to judge with won’t save us from death. The call of Jesus is to demonstrate His incorruptible holiness by vulnerably identifying with those we consider sinners, and experiencing His overcoming grace transforming them along with us.
In short, this is a call for a bottom-up “centered-set” Christianity that is anti-fragile enough to welcome any sinner who is willing to attend. Sure, sometimes our unconditional love may be enough to inspire them to authentically follow our practices and embrace our truth. But in the general case, when they act in ways we find abhorrent, we must dig deeper to discover where we lack the transforming grace of Christ they so desperately need (specifically, the lack they may be justifiably reacting to). And trust that if we are willing to deny our self-constructed identity, take up our abjected cross and follow Him into the very depths of sin, that somehow His resurrection power will be glorified through our weaknesses, and heal a broken world.
Isn’t that what we signed up for in the first place?