perhaps one of the most under-utilized passages in all of scripture is found in mark 15:38 ::
‘and the veil of the temple was torn in two – from top to bottom.’
it seems no matter how hard we try to force the life and teachings of jesus into the boxes of us/them || yes/no|| win/lose || in/out , they always seem to – forgive the word – emerge beyond those borders and break out of the boundaries we’ve attempted to force them into. the barriers keep collapsing.
as we follow God in the way of jesus, we continually find ourselves forced out of the comfort zone of ‘us’ and into community with ‘them.’
living incarnationally in these tension-filled spaces, in intentional pursuit of that which is disconnected, we are continually forced to confront our prejudices and intolerance of ‘the Other.’
this so-called Other could be defined as anyone on the ‘outside’ :: any deemed ‘not one of us’, belonging to a differing group, gender, orientation, party, community, religion, race, culture or creed.
we love having Others. it gives us an identity. something – or even someone – to be against.
yet a christian faith without commitment to the Other is really not christian at at all, because christ was committed to the Other.
long ago, the barriers between what was holy and common – the sacred and profane – were broken down in the very act of the incarnation- jesus, the word made flesh – God in the form of an infant again made intimate with his creation as he had intended from the beginning.
and throughout christ’s entire life, we see a fidelity to the process of reconciliation – a continual pursuit of the relationship lost in the gardens of the poetic genesis narrative.
in christ the power of the barrier of sin has been broken and the separation that had previously existed between the Maker and his creation was torn from top to bottom, just like the veil in the holy of holies which symbolized that same separation.
the barrier no longer exists. grace has prevailed.
God is present – with us, emmanuel – in the midst of the mess of our own humanity. the incarnation is evidence of God’s intentional solidarity with humanity and all of creation.
in the very act and doctrine of the incarnation, the barrier is broken and the concept of ‘the Other’ rendered obsolete.
this principle is at the epicenter of our sorely misunderstood doctrine of salvation and expanded upon by paul in his epistles [one obvious example is galatians 3:28].
yet how many more examples do we gloss over in our cursory and elementary glance at the gospels?
the implications for us to intentionally live as ambassadors of reconciliation are simply staggering… and yet we find ourselves doing theological gymnastics and wrestling with one another on the merits of acceptance of ‘the Other.’
we create barriers – and we declare anathama anyone with the audacity or insight to question the validity of such elementary arguments.
too often, we demand conversion and conformity prior to connection – in stark contrast to the example of radical inclusion christ left for us.
perhaps the lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’ are more blurred than we realize – or care to admit. perhaps the gospel we’ve preached of who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ has run its course – and is tired. washed up. perhaps even unbiblical.
the good news of God is that in the incarnation, God moves toward all of us in the midst of our ‘not-together-ness.’ in order for us to mirror and reflect the way in which jesus lived and loved, we must also be willing to move toward the Other with him.
yet in our efforts to pursue personal holiness, we have resurrected not christ’s message, but rather (re)constructed barriers that stand in between the Other and God;
in essence, we have mended the torn veil in the temple to re-create separation… and fooled ourselves into thinking we’re the only ones ‘good enough’ to be let inside.
i wonder at what point (or at what cost?) we will sacrifice the barriers constructed in self-righteousness for the life-giving good news of jesus.
what do you think?