Who likes the middle? Let’s face it, no one really does. Men, if there are three urinals and you have your choice, which one are you avoiding? The one in the middle, right? I dare you to find a child who actually enjoyed sitting in the middle of the backseat between two siblings on long road trips. I loathed sitting the middle! As a child who only knew “husky” jeans, the middle was not a comfortable place to sit!
No one really wants to spend a lot of time in the middle, but maybe we should. Maybe it’s in the middle that we find ourselves exactly where God has placed us.
Think of a bridge. I know a bridge is an overused cliche thing, but picture it anyway. A bridge is stuck in the middle. It doesn’t choose sides. Its purpose is to stay in the middle of the two sides and make the connection possible. We live in a polarizing era in history. It seems that we are only given two sides to things, two options. I’ve always been told that we must choose a side because by not choosing we are choosing. I understand where people come from in this way of thinking. I get it, but I’ve starting asking myself a question over the past few years…. What exactly am I accomplishing by doing this?
I’m blown away that when I actually read and study the Bible, I see Jesus not falling into a category. He doesn’t seem to stay to one side. He is His own category. Humanity attempted several times to make Him choose a side and He avoided it. Maybe if I say I follow Him, I should follow in His footsteps?
Let’s look back into the Old Testament and realize that God doesn’t choose our sides as we might assume He does. Joshua was stepping into a new leadership role after the death of his dear friend and mentor, Moses, who had recently passed. Joshua was scouting out the territory that the Israelites were about to step into and hopefully conquer back… hopefully. He finds a man standing with a drawn sword. Joshua approaches the man and asks a simple question, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” The man standing there responded, “Neither, but as the commander of the army of the Lord…..” Joshua fell on his face and worshiped. I agree with several scholars who hold the stance that the man standing there with a drawn sword was Jesus. There were a few times Jesus stepped out of Heaven for a moment during the Old Testament time period and into humanity.
This might come as a surprise to some, but there are different views and sides within the same religions. The religious setting Jesus grew up in was no different. One side was a very “conservative” religious side and there was another side that was more “progressive” side. There are times that Jesus, while He was on the earth for 33-ish years, made statements that might align Him with one religious side or another. If you keep reading, you see him say something or do something that appears He is aligning himself with the other side. Jesus says in one breath that one letter of the law won’t pass away and in the next breath, He says, “you have heard it said…. But I tell you…..” Which is it, Jesus?
Jesus calls his original twelve apostles from completely different political viewpoints and encourages them to look beyond their own political agenda for something so much greater. Simon the Zealot has to work with Matthew the tax collector in order to help people see Jesus.
Growing up, I have always been told that by not choosing a side, I stand for nothing. I get it. But why do I have to choose a side that is presented? Can’t I choose to stand in the middle at times? Jesus isn’t a Republican. Jesus isn’t a Democrat. Nor is He a Libertarian. Jesus is Jesus. Political options might be easier, but I don’t think Jesus is asking us to find the easiest way.
Which Lives Matter?
Black lives matter and so do Blue lives. I empathize with young African American people who struggle to be known and struggle with the concept that their lives don’t really matter. The young man walking down the street matters. I started connecting with a young man who walks up and down the street RE.THINK Church sits on. As Cameron and I have connected, I’ve asked him this question “Can you explain the Black Lives matter issue?” His insights have helped me come to a place to say “Yes, their message has validity”. It has a place and it needs to be heard! His concern is that the original message has been hijacked and might need to be revisited and reevaluated. I have a brother-in-law who is a sheriff deputy. I’ve heard his side of the story. I love and respect him as a man and an officer! I know he is a fair law enforcement officer who wants the best for his community. He also wants to come home safely at the end of the each day. My desire is to stand in the middle of these polarizing messages and connect the two sides, my goal in connecting them is to have each side communicate with each other. When we place people on sides, or in categories “You’re one of them…” “You’re a….” we objectify the person and remove their humanity. I believe Christ-followers need to remove those obstacles and help our neighbors see each other as humans, and ultimately connect people to the God who loves humanity beyond any understanding.
The Bible and humanity:
In this section, I want to be very clear. I believe in orthodoxy, I believe that the Bible’s words give us the methods, paths, and examples of how to live our lives to the fullest as our relationship matures with Jesus. The words found in the Bible, the teachings of our spiritual forefathers and foremothers, our ability to reason and our personal experience should guide us into truth, into the best life possible as we live in this world we live in. I am not debating the truths, the grace, nor what Jesus calls sin or what Jesus calls good in the Bible.
I honestly believe that the Bible was written for every human being and every human should read it! It’s a collection of books that speak the loving message of God to humanity. I don’t view it as mine to protect and ensure that no one perverts it. God will do that. It’s mine to read, grasp it’s meaning as much as I can and apply to my life. As a pastor, it’s also mine to communicate and teach to others and give examples of how to apply these teachings to their own lives. One of the most challenging parts of everyone reading the words of the Bible on their own or in a community is that they might read it differently than I would. I think the benefit of having people reading the words of God on a regular basis are so much more than the downsides. This issue is not a new issue, it’s been around since the beginning of the church.
So, what do we do with people who have a sexual orientation and sexual lifestyle different than what is described in the Bible, and people misunderstanding what the Bible says? I see Jesus stepping into the middle and leading with grace and truth. He engages in a conversation with a lady who is caught in sexual sin. He shows grace toward her and speaks truth to her at the same time. He encourages her to leave her life of sin. It is possible to stand in the middle as a church and as a Christ follower and to show grace and truth in their fullest capacity.
Connection Brings Tension:
In an era where people are desperate for connection, desperate for hope, and desperate for a voice; instead of choosing a side, maybe I should stand in the middle. Maybe I need to make it possible for their voice to be heard, possible for them to have access to hope, and possible for them to connect with Jesus. Jesus tells me that the world will know that I am His disciple by the way I love others, not by my ability to fix people or convince people. So, maybe I should stand in the middle and love others the way Jesus loves me.
Not choosing a side mean living with tension. Pull a rubber band and where is the most tension…. In the middle. Each side pulling whatever, or whoever is in the middle toward their side. Standing my ground in the middle seems to bring the most tension, as well as the most opportunity to connect other humans to each other, and ultimately to Jesus.