“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” – Philippians 2:3
As I continue research and press forward toward launching the marketplace ministry I believe God has called me to, I find a broad range of views and concerns within the Church expressed along many different lines. Conversations on the theological level, thankfully, in the marketplace arena have not diverged too deeply into the differences of various Christian traditions but there are some interesting conversations that do arise. One twist is the concern over the division of the Church into its various traditions (Eastern, Roman, Protestant) and denominations (now numbering something like 30,000 among Protestants). I am an ecumenist and I believe the greatest opportunity for the unity of the Church may reside in the marketplace where how we go about ministry can easily transcend the particular flavors of faith in which we find ourselves. We even find ourselves thrown together in the marketplace and recognize the shared foundations of our faith without overt concern about how we might differ. Rather, I am encouraged by the focus I continue to find directly toward worshipping God in the overwhelming commonalities of our faith, especially the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
As I awoke this morning, the phrase “the logic of subjectivity” was drifting about in the fog of emerging from sleep. I wondered how that applied to the Christian faith and especially to the marketplace of God’s blessing and ministry to His Church and the world.
I am sure I will get no argument along the line of recognizing my own limitations. I am like everyone else, painfully aware of my own finitude. I have had some great Bible teachers in my life and have sought to study it extensively on my own. But if I have learned anything it is to hang on very loosely to much of what I think I know. I have had the opportunity to meet many gifted Bible scholars. For the most part, these are women and men who will quickly concede, ultimately, they do not know all that much.
I think the idea comes to light if we consider our limitations in light of the unlimited nature of God. That is why we all now see as through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12), simply due to our complete inability to truly grasp God. He makes Himself known to us in a great many ways but no one of us, or even all of us together, can know Him even remotely as He truly is.
Unfortunately our egos too often get in the way, crowding out true humility as we seek to know God in the context of our relationships with His people and the rest of His creation. We do not care for the tension between our limitations and God’s infinity, so we tend toward pride in establishing all that we think we know, rather more than the foundations we all likely share, as chiseled in stone. Our relentless grasp of various doctrines and beliefs not only chokes our own ability to grow in the Spirit but serves to cut others off from that same grace.
Why would God allow such things? It certainly is not His plan or desire. Jesus prayed for our unity (John 17:11). How can we be unified when we hold so many different positions and opinions?
There is but one path that will “take us home.” The diversity of the Church holds a subtle key to God’s redemptive stroke in overcoming our pride, the pride that divides us. That key is humility. How do we reconcile our differences? By standing on our commanilities. Jesus Christ is Lord, He was crucified, and He arose from the dead. Those facts should astonish us enough.
I consider it nothing other than a demonstration of God’s redemptive genius that by the Holy Spirit He leads us into relationships where differences must always occur. We each live according to our beliefs born out of our unique experiences and knowledge. Not two of us have identical histories. Our views of life and the world on most topics are therefore necessarily subjective, our individual interpretations of reality no matter how closely we align ourselves with a particular sect or teacher.
The genius lies amidst those relationships for, as we encounter the views and beliefs of others (again, within the Christian faith), we are confronted, if we are open and honest, with our own limitations. Hence the opportunity to walk in the humility that is due our created nature. God is God and we are not. His knowledge is perfect. Ours is constrained by our limits and tainted by our broken, sinful flesh.
God’s redemptive logic in allowing us to be so limited in this particular allows us the opportunity to see ourselves honestly. He grants us the opportunity to grow in grace and humility. The kaleidoscopic nature of the Church…of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation (Revelation 5:9)…gives us a view and an opportunity to behold some of the beautiful glory of God. If we cannot step away from our egos, our vision is limited and we will miss it.