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Christians are known as “people of the Book,” people whose lives are shaped by the Word that God communicates to us through Scripture. We look to the Bible to tell not just any story, but OUR story. In the Bible, we connect with people who struggle to be faithful, people who rely as we do upon the mercies of God.

Mortimer Adler has said, “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” So the true test of how honestly, faithfully, and seriously you are reading the Bible is how much of it is getting through to you!

Two powerful cultural influences create problems for us as we read and respond to the Bible. One is the myth of productivity, which says we are what we do. The second is the myth of consumption, where our perceived worth is measured by our possessions.

The world will not be changed by how hard we work or how many things we own. Our discipleship will not be more fruitful based on what we produce or consume. Our worth is tied up entirely in what Christ has done for all people – breaking down the dividing walls that separate us from one another, the walls we place between ourselves and God, the walls of greed and pride in our hearts, the walls constructed of hatred, injustice, and fear.

United Methodist Bishop Elaine Stanovsky tells a story about one of her three sons, a freshman in college, who returned to his dorm room one evening to find one of his roommates drinking and despondent. As her son talked to him, he discovered that this roommate was gay, and he was a long way from home. That day he had received word that a good friend from high school had committed suicide. He was closeted and had no support system.

Her son didn’t know what to do, but he turned to his roommate, and he said, “Do you go to church?” And the boy said, “Well, I did, but my pastor at home was pretty condemning, and so I really haven’t gone, and I don’t have a church here.”

Her son said, “I attend Epworth Church, just across campus. It’s a reconciling congregation. You could come.”

What he didn’t say to his despondent roommate that night was, “Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Then Bishop Stanovsky added, “We are so grateful that our son had a church that he could invite his friend to. I am so glad that he grew up in the wideness of God’s mercy” [Vimeo posted on Facebook, July 20, 2012].

The writer of Ephesians reminds us, “Christ is our peace.” Christ came to reconcile all things, things on earth, and things in heaven, so that God would be all in all. In spite of our inclinations to divide ourselves up along party lines, religious denominations, or economic status, Christ enables us to see one another for the sisters and brothers that we are. In spite of our disagreements and the trouble we have living with difference, Christ challenges us to forgive, to strive for mutual understanding, and to be gracious toward one another.

It is up to us to take care not to build or maintain walls of separation between ourselves and others. It is up to us to examine our hearts to find those invisible but very real barriers that can so easily be erected in our lives. In a world that constantly encourages the “us versus them” mentality, the Christian message is that there is no “them.” There is only “us” – all of us, right here in the same boat, members of the same human family. Christ has created in himself “one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace” (Eph. 2:15b).

Christ does this work of reconciliation for us, among us, and within us. Still, it is up to us to develop within ourselves a spirit of cooperation with the Spirit of Christ. In so doing we are becoming people after God’s own heart.

Give me a pure heart — that I may see Thee,
A humble heart — that I may hear Thee,
A heart of love — that I may serve Thee,
A heart of faith — that I may abide in Thee.
~ Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, 1964

Words (c) 2012 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo (c) 2012 Dallis Day Richardson

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