The other day, I was walking in a downtown city, and at a major stoplight, I noticed people on opposite corners, sitting at a desk typing on a keyboard. As I stood there, I also noticed that you could read what they were typing on large screens that appeared above their desks. Mind you, this was one busy intersection.
And this was such a curious sight, I paused to read some of what they were typing. And after closer inspection, I noticed that they were typing back and forth to one another, across this busy crossing. The sidewalks were packed with people trying to get to their next destination. Some were trying to get to work, some were attempting to get home early to see their children, some were late to class and hoping they wouldn’t have to wait too long at the light, and some were looking forward to having lunch with a friend.
Some of the people were believers in and followers of Jesus Christ. Others had given up on what they called “faith” a long time ago. Some could not stand the thought of religion or what they perceived as Christianity. And others were just out for a walk around town, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. Some were close friends of those typing, others were simply acquaintances, and yet others they hadn’t seen since childhood.
But these two large screens began to capture the attention of those passing by. It wasn’t just me reading the words on the screens, but other people began to take notice too. Those who were intent on getting home or to work on time, were now distracted. Their attention had been taken away from what was most important to them. In fact some people who were supposed to be at work in the city buildings, had their noses stuck to the windows of their work, trying to read what the two were typing on these large screens below on the sidewalk.
And the more people read, the more agitated or frustrated they became. Some people at the intersection knew each other, but many did not. And then a curious thing began occurring.
Many of these same people began to pull out their devices and laptops so they could join in by typing words on large screens. Others didn’t type, but began to sit in bleachers near the intersection to watch these words appear on the large screens. Keep in mind, these people, just a few minutes ago, were trying to get somewhere else, but now these screens with words had become their focus. They hadn’t meant to stay at this intersection but for a minute, but now they were sitting in bleachers munching on popcorn, or typing on their own devices, murmuring to those around them.
Then when something they liked or agreed with would appear on the screens, they would jump up and hold a sign that said ‘I like that!’ And people began choosing corners of the street to stand or sit at. Some people had never met before, others were part of the same family, but you would not have guessed it by how they interacted with their words on these screens.
It was such an odd and interesting thing. Before entering the intersection, the people were focused on something else, something better I’d say. I spoke to many of the people after they had left their bleacher seat, closed their laptop, or put away their device. When I asked members of this one family, where they were originally going, I heard answers such as these… “I was about ready to…
- be home so I could play outside with my kids.”
- spend time reading and reflecting on the Bible.”
- write a love note to my spouse.”
- plan a gathering for friends at my house.”
- walk next door and talk to our neighbor.”
- call my grandmother.”
- finish up this big project at work.”
- sit with and listen to my teenager.”
- take a walk.”
Something better I’d say…
Much like our earthly families experience conflict and disagreement, so do those in God’s family. Through faith in Christ, we are adopted by our God, and brought into a family (Ephesians 1:3-14, Colossians 2:21-23). A family full of imperfect brothers and sisters, but with a perfect Heavenly Father. A Father who shepherds our hearts and cares for our souls.
And in this family, we’ll disagree. We’ll have conflict (Philippians 2:1-2, 4:2). We’ll hurt one another and sin against one another. Sometimes we’ll do it intentionally because we still have this thing called pride that isn’t completely dead. And then other times, we’ll unfortunately just bumble over ourselves and step on toes in our zeal for our great Father in Heaven.
In this family, we’ll deal with tensions from our Father’s Word. Tensions that are not intended to be resolved or neatly tied up with a bow, but wrestled with. For example, what does it look like to follow Jesus who was full of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17). Now He doesn’t intend for His Word to be confusing, but sometimes we make it that way. Sometimes, our hearts still fight the sinful temptation to make God out in our image, or create an image of a “god” who suits our personal feelings or would be better accepted by an ever changing culture.
As we learn from our Heavenly Father, as we are shaped, sanctified, and transformed by the truth of His Word (John 17:17), may we be gracious toward one another. We’ve been shown abundant grace by our Father, so may we show abundant grace to one another. Such a testimony would be God-glorifying for the watching world (Matthew 5:14-16, John 17:23). For when followers of Christ openly bicker in front of a watching world, even if they are right about a subject according to Scripture, such a witness doesn’t honor the name of Christ.
Family, we were designed by God for relationships. We were not meant for isolation but for community with one another. And this Biblical community is best lived out, specifically in the conflict, tension, and disagreement, NOT at busy intersections, with keyboards, devices, and large screens, with a myriad of people casually walking through the intersection. Rather, this community is best played out face to face (Acts 2:42-47). In kitchens, over meals, at restaurants, on Sunday mornings, in living rooms, in front yards. Where tone can be reflected and understood, and non-verbals communicated, with Bibles that are open, hearts that are pursuing humility and the attitude of Christ, and a shared desire to love our Father and one another well.
Family, we’ve been made new by Christ. We are a new creation in Christ, and the old is gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). May we continually seek to clothe ourselves in Christ and live, not only individually, but corporately as a family, for the glory of God!
Colossians 3:12-17: 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.