“There’s a reason He called us His Body and not His Estate.”
That’s what Tib Pearson told me.
Tib with his Red Wing workboots and worn John Deere hat and hands weathered and etched like a greying cedar rail.
“A Body is connected with sinew and vein — and an estate is divided with fences and line.”
He said it with his hands, the way a man of the land does, and you could see how his hands knew rusted wire and gnarled barbs and how to free things caught in fences.
“You gotta cut down the fences – or you cut up the Body.”
I’m not saying Tib knew anything, really.
Just maybe saying something about how to open up the earth and suffer a bit, so there is yield, how the Christ had commanded on Maundy Thursday, maundatam Thursday, Thursday of the new mandate, that command of the Last supper:
“A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35)
The way we live that?
You’d think it was some flimsy, take-it-or-leave-it suggestion.
You’d think disciples are actually known by the number of points of their creeds, or the acceptable books on their shelves, or the right conferences on their calendars, or the approved names they drop in the church foyer.
You’d think Christ’s own were known by who they avoid, who they disdain, who they call out, who they label. You’d think being known by your love was being known as a liberal instead of a Christian, and there are thousand things backward about this.
Do you tell a man like Tib Pearson that you think we’re all getting torn apart?
That it feels like someone is trying to rip us sisters apart at the holy limbs, that love is laughed at as the anemic brother of muscular truth, and that acerbic rhetoric seems like the blood flow through the Body, not love?
I told Tib flat out once, that I thought a woman was teaching something false, that she was leading sisters astray, mudding up their minds and their one wild heart.
I’d lay in bed at nights staring at the ceiling, churning, desperate to protect the Church, to keep the Gospel pure.
And there was Jesus in the weeks before Calvary, Christ crushed beneath that Cross, begging that prayer of Maundy Thursday:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message….
that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20–23)
Only those who love, are sent by Christ.
Without love — Christ didn’t send you.
Who will keep His new commandment and who will be the answer to Christ’s prayers? Who will love as He lived?
And I once laid awake for weeks, thinking of how someone took some of the broken pieces of my own story and misunderstood them and what they said of me, broke more of me, and I won’t lie — the whole thing, it cut to the quick, right there under the rib, razor sharp. I’ve bled for a long time.
Sometimes your scars bleed quietly long after everyone thinks you’ve healed.
I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him as the Only Way, truth and light and the Cross as my only hope and salvation and the Word of God as a pure word, a sure word, the only inerrant, infallible Word.
I believe it is only people who are fallible and interpretations that are errant and studying the Word of God – is about having the Word of God study us.
Sometimes instead of shooting someone a clarifying question – we shoot arrows. I thought my heart might bleed to death.
The Farmer, he pulled on this t-shirt “My Wife Rocks” – not his typical farmer vernacular or his typical farmer attire – but it was his broken way of standing with me, dying for me, and he just drew me close when the pain of it all made it hard to keep standing.
I had laid awake at night and it hurt to inhale.
And I groped around that thought and I repented and prayed I wouldn’t forget: Christians need to be most careful with words if we are the most Christ-full.
And what a heart knows by heart is what a heart knows and mine pounded out in the dark, the memory of Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers – for they will be called children of God.”
If I didn’t live peace – whose child would I be then?
It took me several nights of laying awake — but finally once night — I got up out of bed. My fingers trembled but wasn’t His command to love one another anyways and I tapped out an email to that person whose words had bled me open. I sent an invitation to dinner.
Not a rebuttal, not an explanation, not a defence.
I invited their whole family to come over and sit across the table. When a relationship starts to break down, instead of breaking fellowship — always ask to break bread.
The Body of Christ has a thousand angry opinions, a thousand fractions and divisions and circles, all these cliques of circles, all these walls. But not one of us are not broken.
And acknowledging our own brokenness is what makes high walls between people crumble. Because when you are broken – it’s always your pointing finger that is broken. You can’t point at anyone else anymore as the only sinner.
Brokenness breaks us from our need to be “right” and breaks us open to our need to extend the grace we have been given.
And when I saw their email responding to mine to break bread, I closed my eyes —
and I prayed hard and I was shaking scared when I opened their words because you don’t know when a fence might be built or tore down.
I read the words there on my screen:
“I want to send you an apology… Something happened inside of me when I saw your name in my inbox.
I had neglected to remind myself — that you are a real person and, not only that, but a sister in Christ.
I can’t deny that somewhere in my mind lurks this insider and outsider kind of thinking which somehow encourages me to extend greater courtesy to one group than another.”
And I put my hand on the screen and laid my head down on the table and there’s no shame in saying I cried hard.
Insider and outsider kind of thinking – all these walls, all theses barriers, all this pain.
While I was yet sinning directly against Him, Christ reached out wide to me and directly took the nail and literally drained Himself for me .Though we may theologically disagree with one another, aren’t we still called to be nice to one another?
If we truly believe someone’s soul is in danger — why do we demonize them instead of evangelize them?
And laying there in the dark, thinking about how one fence had been torn down by love, and how I could tear down another fence and love a sister different than me — He can give you eyes to see and it’s like you can read the writing right there on all the walls between us:
Obedience to the law of Love is the most expedient way to preach the gospel.
There’s Christ in the weeks before Calvary, Christ crushed beneath that Cross, and what did He do but live the law of love?
What does God do but live the law of love: “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
God loves while we sin, God holds out His hand to the disobedient, and love is what makes God the most potent of all. Love is the the most radically subversive activism of all, the only thing that ever changed any one.
We never have to be afraid to love — as if love might gag truth and kill God.
Love never negates truth. Because love never silences Truth.
Love is the very foundation of Truth: without love, Truth crashes, a clanging gong. Without love, Christ didn’t send you.
Love is the language of Truth and grace is the dialect of God and Truth is only understandable if spoken with understanding love.
Christ prayed that new mandate on Maundy Thursday, that we might be brought to complete unity — and unity doesn’t mean that we paper over our differences. It means we open the papers of His Word and dialogue, not open fire and destroy.
It could happen like this: We could stop confusing unity with unanimity. God’s people may not have doctrinal unanimity, but we must have definite unity, if we’re ever to have deep credibility.
The eminent theologian, J.I. Packer, he had prayed like my friend Tib, for the “visible church as a single worldwide, Spirit-sustained community, within which ongoing doctrinal and denominational divisions, though important, are secondary rather than primary.”
True, there is always this tension between practicing Unity and preaching Truth – but it is the tension of two people hanging fiercely on to each other, like the tension of a bridge, that the Gospel might go forth into all the world. If we let go of each other — the Gospel goes nowhere.
What can wound Christ more than Christians cannibalizing each other?
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose.
For members of Chloe’s household have made it clear to me, my brothers and sisters, that there are quarrels among you.
Now I mean this, that each of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with Christ.”
Is Christ divided?” ~1 Cor 1:10–14
Is Christ divided?
Puritan Richard Baxter in his work The Reformed Pastor brazenly wrote:
“He that is not a son of Peace is not a son of God. All other sins destroy the Church consequentially; but Division and Separation demolish it directly…”
Division and separation demolish the Church directly. Tib Pearson, he knows what every farmer knows. If you want a field to yield, you have to tear out the fences.
Is the internet, is the Body of Christ, too scared to break down walls and reach across lines? Aren’t I chief among sinners? Scared that if I reach out to that person– some will conclude that I agree with all of their theology.
What if I was just loving the person?
That’s how the enemy tries to cut the Body with two wires:
If you disagree with someone on one point – then you must disdain or dismiss them entirely. And if you acknowledge or affirm someone – then you must agree with them entirely. This is a lie. Break it.
Having Christian convictions can’t ever negate having Christ’s compassion.
Christ was never scared of guilt by association.
Sure, the watchdogs asked, “Why does he eat with sinners and tax collectors?”
Because He was loving them.
Maundy Thursday’s there on the calendar today and Christ carries His cross and this is the call of God in this hour to the Body of Christ in this world: Instead of drawing dividing lines in the community of Cross believers -– the broken are called to demolish the walls of division.
And we are the sisters who can’t be torn apart, who rise up with Beth Moore’s wisdom: “We break our sinful stereotypes in Christianity the same way we break them in the world – we get to know people we’re prejudiced toward.”
We are God’s people are done with ghettos and are on fire with the good news.
We are the People of the Cross who are ready obey the mandate of the Thursday before Good Friday, who live the new commandment of Maundy Thursday and find one woman different than we are and us broken people who start breaking down walls and we reach out to someone of a different denomination, a different political leaning, a different nationality, a different culture, a different orientation, a different skin color –a different religion.
We are the People of the Cross who take seriously enough the commandment of the Last Supper to love one another — that we invite someone to our table from the other side of the fence.
We are God’s children who break bread together — to break down walls.
We are the People of the Cross who instead of waging attack on the implicit issues of another’s faith life — spend our lives openly encouraging an explicit faith in the living Christ. We are God’s people who really believe the Bible, that “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19), and we could be the ones who stop judging and simply make our lives about the joy-filled proclamation of knowing Him and making Him known.
We could be His people called to be Peacemakers and Rift Menders and Fence Destroyers, the ones who know that the brokenness of humility is the secret to community and the harshness of pride is what builds walls of division.
We could be the ones in Christ who are done with fearing guilt by association and ready to live grace by association.
Why be afraid of guilt by association – when if we don’t associate beyond the walls, no one will ever come to know the wonders of His grace?
We could be the ones who know that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Gal.5:6)
The people who know not just in our cerebral synapses but in the chambers of our bravely pounding hearts: that if we have right doctrine, but have not love, we are nothing more than a clanging gong.
I could tell Tib that.
That the only barbed wire the Body ever knows is like those barbed thorns pressed into His brow.
How that Maundy Thursday Lord, that Good Friday Christ, broke His own body on that cross to break down the walls of hostility that separate us all.