When we step back we can see a fact that Jesus established long ago: we are all in the City.
When it comes to the reputation of church in our culture, we’re all in this together. As believers, we can see shades of theological and liturgical differences between denominations and synods. The everyday joe can’t and doesn’t care. Much to my frustration, church is church to him. I hate that.
It’s a truism that the more alike two entities are the more they fight to differentiate themselves and establish superiority. The greater the similarities the more important the distinctives become and the more fierce the struggle to establish distance.
Sibling rivalry is the textbook example.
As people who think a lot about church and spend a lot of time in and around it, it’s hard for us to place ourselves outside the walls and look at ourselves through the eyes of the disinterested general public. But when we do step back we can see a fact that Jesus established long ago: we are all in the City.
In our myopic view, we see our individual ministries (or individual lives) like an outpost for truth in a wild wilderness of culture. A lone shining light. A cabin in the woods.
I wish I could march off into the woods and build a cabin of my own so the world would know that I’m not associated with the crazies that shame and degrade Christ with their shenanigans. But I can’t.
Stepping back to a wide enough perspective, however, reveals a much more uncomfortable and crowded reality. We’re not individual cabins in the woods. We are – together – a city on a hill. Just like Jesus said in Matt 5:16: “Y’all are the light of the world a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (That’s the Texas version. And that’s a second-person plural pronoun for you grammar nerds.
Bottom line: We are in this together. Our tiny points of light form a twinkling cityscape on a hill. We are the City.
I wish it weren’t true. I wish I could match off into the woods and build a cabin of my own so the world would know that I’m not associated with the crazies that shame and degrade Christ with their shenanigans. But I can’t. As far as a run I still can’t get off this hill. As much as I hate it, I can’t marginalize the dangerous or distasteful varieties of church enough to push them outside the City.
The cabin in the woods is a myth.