The other day, I was sitting in our home, reading and enjoying a rather peaceful day, when all reading and enjoying came to an abrupt halt. “Ding dong,” says the doorbell.
Before I get any further, allow me to establish that I understand the general purpose and idea behind a doorbell and I have no problem with that. There’s someone at my door and the doorbell tells me that. That’s fine.
But unfortunately, in our neighborhood, I would bet that 80% of the time that our doorbell says, “I have someone out here that would like to speak with you,” what it really should be saying is, “I have someone out here that would like to sell you something,” to which, I would defiantly reply to the doorbell, “Pass.”
This particular day, I scoot up to the peephole to see what’s being sold today. I peep upon four people: one female and three males, ages ranging from early 20’s to late 50’s. Based on their ages, attire, and what I can deduce of their lifestyles, they don’t make sense together.
I know at this point, the extroverts among you are wondering why I haven’t opened the door. My reply is this: “Don’t judge me.” I’m generally a scared kitten when it comes to unknown social situations and strange people at my door is the pinnacle of unknown social situations.
After waiting a few moments, this seemingly odd group of neighborhood wayfarers stick something in our screen door and promptly moved on to the next house on the block. I proudly declare to our doorbell, “You don’t own me!”
After they’ve moved on, I curiously crack the door to see what gift they have left for us. It’s a magnet advertising a new church that’s starting up. Naturally, as someone in “the business” (assume as much satire as possible), they have piqued my interest. So, I promptly head to my computer to peruse their website, looking for key markers that I may categorize them.
And then, just like my doorbell, an idea interrupts me…”Ding dong: Why does it matter?”
From the moment I peeped on them, I was trying to make sense of them. I wanted to be able to fit them into a category in my mind. Then, discovering that they were representing a church, that want intensified into a need. I needed to know…High church or low church? Affiliated or unaffiliated? Conservative or liberal? New homiletic or old homiletic? Gifts of the Spirit or no gifts of the Spirit? Mainline or Evangelical? For the “haves” or the “have-nots”? Mission-minded or holy huddle? These are the categories that I ran through in a matter of seconds.
Again, the idea doorbell interrupts…”Ding dong: You’re trying to find out if they are an ‘us’ or a ‘them.’”
I realized that in all my categorizing, my unstated desire was to know if I could consider them one of “us” or one of “them,” an insider or an outsider, a friend or an enemy.
It’s alive and active. It’s tearing apart what should be together. It’s making enemies of those that should be friends. It’s hindering God’s Church…no, that’s not strong enough. It’s poisoning God’s Church.
God’s people are meant to be a blessing to all other people (see Abraham, the unlikely father of God’s people). Looking at the world today, I’d say God’s people are falling a bit short in the “being a blessing” department. I’m not even sure we’re doing a good job within the family. We so quickly define “the other” in order to vilify and dismiss them before we even have the chance to get to know them, to love and bless them.
So, I’m going to reach out to this new church to welcome them and express my support. I hope to take a step away from my us/them hostility and to take a step toward being a blessing.
Is this something that you see in the Church today? Is this something that you see in yourself?
What occasions within local church life or within yourself can you identify in which tribalism has been overcome? How can you celebrate that?