In a book written more than 20 years ago, Rodney Clapp said, as a follower of Jesus, “I often find myself in between communities or categories.”
If that was his experience in 1996, it is even more my experience in 2019. I bet it is your experience as well. I wish I could write much more clearly than I do, but what follows is my current best shot at describing what I mean.
As followers of Jesus, we know we are living in between the times. We are living in what good theology describes as “the already, but not yet.” The Kingdom of God is already here, but not yet fully here. The presence of God is dynamically shaping our world, but our world is not yet fully reshaped.
We live in between the Advents of Jesus. The first coming was 2,000 years ago. His second coming (return) is still to be. And the early Christians who were living in between prayed “Maranatha” or “Return soon, Lord Jesus.”
Here’s another way to describe this:
I am already saved (past tense, justified by grace through faith).
I will one day be fully saved (future tense, glorified or delivered into eternity by grace through hope).
But right now, I am progressively being saved (present tense, sanctified by grace through love). Faith AND hope AND love. Not faith OR hope OR love.
In other words, I am not what I once was, but I am not yet what and who I will one day be. (Thank God he will one day complete what he has started in my life – see Philippians 1:6).
I understand living in between.
I also am what is known as a lumper. I prefer lumping more than splitting. Splitting tends to see life in terms of either-or. Lumpers like both-and.
Yes, I do think there are either-or positions where I fall clearly on one side. After all, Jesus is either God OR he’s not. I fall adamantly on the God side. In a funny way, I am both a lumper AND a splitter.
But on many things, lumping is the way to go. I don’t think black or white or even gray is the way to go through life. Many things in our world are full of color–red, blue, green, purple, orange, lavender…
I live in the world AND I live in the Kingdom of God. It is both-and. However, I am not OF the world while I am IN the world.
I live in the United States of America AND I live on planet earth. I live locally AND globally. I love York AND I love many different countries and cultures. (Yes, I really do love York. So does Jesus.)
I am an evangelical AND a contemplative. I am reformed AND (mildly) charismatic. I am a thinker AND an activist. I am missional AND I am a mystic. I study AND I pray. (Talk about a spiritual crayon box of hues and shades!)
In my politics (like my theology) I find myself, once again, like so many other Christians, in between. No one party speaks sufficiently and certainly, not solely, for me. No one political or social group captures the full gospel of shalom, justice, virtue, and sheer goodness. So I walk in between these communities.
I think Living Word has been attractive and inviting to so many people because Living Word itself is a community of in-betweeners. In our theology, our spirituality, our missional engagement with the world, and our social positions we draw on many traditions and influences.
It gets messy. We make mistakes. We are in process (like all sojourners are – see Hebrews 11:13-16). We have to recalibrate and realign. But it seems real, authentic, genuine. Above all, it seems like Jesus, who, after all, was the One who could be contained by no category or community.
Which is one more reason why the categories and communities of his time conspired together to get rid of him. Three days later he showed them how futile that attempt was.
Don’t let the categories and communities or your world box Jesus, restrict Jesus, forbid Jesus, redefine Jesus, or resist Jesus. He is bigger and he is on the move. See just how far he can take you.