Before I reflect on what I was planning to reflect on this week – exploring living missionally centered in Jesus by examining Luke 10:27, I need to add a part 2 to last week’s thoughts on living centered in Jesus.
This week I am at the Mennonite Church USA Convention in Pittsburgh and I am noticing how it seems in our speech that we often take Jesus for granted, merely assuming that Jesus is at the foundation of what we are discussing – yet never mentioning his name. However, I am developing the conviction that unless Jesus is explicit in our conversations, i.e., reflecting on issues with intentionally bringing Christ into the dialogue, we may discover that Jesus is less than implicit in our thinking about being missional.
For example, on Monday night during the first night of the Convention, Shane Hipps, who is now a teaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, spoke on reconciliation and being ambassadors of reconciliation. I know he alluded to Jesus a few times in his talk, but in the reporting of it in the Convention newspaper, there is no mention of Jesus at all in connection with his exploration of reconciliation. In fact, in reporting on Shane’s talk, it was reported that we were being called to be “ambassadors of reconciliation” and though that is true enough, yet without being explicit about Jesus Christ – the text in 2 Corinthians actually says that we are called to be “ambassadors of Christ” – the question remains in what or in whom do we base what we mean by reconciliation – who sets the agenda for reconciliation, who accomplishes the possibility of reconciliation?
As Stanley Hauerwas once commented in an interview on the web site Jesus Radicals, there is a difference between Mennonites who foster peace and justice from a humanist perspective (i.e., adhering to concepts of peace and justice disassociated from any connection to Christ Jesus) and those who advocate for peace and justice as an expression of their rootedness, their discipleship in Jesus Christ (i.e., Christological Mennonites). He expressed that there is a need for more “Christological Mennonites.”
From my perspective, I do not know how we can be intentionally missional without being intentional about Jesus as well. As an aside: Before you get the impression that Mennonites do not engage Jesus intentionally, allow me to dispel that – there were many times in prayers and comments and even specific conversations, where specific explicit connections to Jesus are being made. However, I am noticing this can be the exception, rather than the norm.
However, what I would like to think is that we as Mennonites are merely making assumptions that Jesus is behind our language of peace and justice and reconciliation – but then that may be an assumption I am making as well. In talking with another delegate today, they expressed something similar that they have witnessed in their own congregation, that members hold to certain ideas of justice that are not ostensibly rooted in Jesus Christ.
Yesterday morning we spent some time in 1 Cor. 3:1-4 where Paul is addressing the Corinthians stating that they are “acting like mere human beings” (v. 3). Rather than our being content with “being mere human beings,” Paul is calling us to be a people who are rooted in Christ Jesus and open to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be spiritual, rather than “worldly.” Unless we are intentional about our being rooted in Christ, being led by the Holy Spirit, we will continue to major in missing the point – in neglecting to make Jesus explicit in pursuing justice, peace, reconciliation, and in being missional. Failing to make Jesus explicit in our conversations, in our dialoguing on faith issues, we will continue to act as “mere human beings” rather than being a people who live within the new creation and foster reconciliation through being ambassadors of Christ – who indeed is the one who has effected and continues to effect reconciliation through the Spirit empowering us who are Christ’s disciples (cf. 2 Cor. 5: 16ff).
I guess the key question for me is how we can be sure that Jesus is not a side thought, an afterthought, or an unexpressed thought in our exploring what it means for us to be the missional people of God. In living as disciples of Jesus in the world, we need to find ways to include him in more of our language - it not only helps us, but helps others see Christ as well.