I was working on a devotional piece for the Caspari Center newsletter this morning. I looked at a couple of the previous ones I’d written for them, and thought I’d share one of them here in this space today. One of the quiet ministries Caspari does in Israel is facilitating some gatherings where Jewish and Arab followers of Christ can come together, outside of the physical, spiritual and cultural dividing walls that separate them.
I wrote the piece below with that setting in mind, but it is definitely applicable here in the U.S. as well. We do love the comfort of our dividing walls, don’t we? But those artificial walls come at a high cost, and in the end, they will not stand.
“You won our first-ever playwriting contest!”
I’d entered a script to a competition held by a local junior college. I listened to the theater professor on the other end of the phone explain that my winning script was going to undergo a metamorphosis over the next couple of months. I would be invited to campus to help cast the play. The actors would read the script to an audience of students, who would then be invited to provide feedback. I would then have a couple of weeks to revise the script. After another reading and revision, the actors would perform the play for the public.
“We’ll make sure to do lots of advertising so we pack the house for those final performances,” she said.
I felt a little queasy when I hung up the phone. I didn’t fully realize all that would be required of me when I entered the contest. How would I ever be able to take the bare bones of the script I’d submitted and have it ready it for a public production?
But what I experienced during the process both shaped my life as a writer and, more importantly, painted an unforgettable image onto my soul of what it looks like when a group is deeply committed to working together toward a common goal. Every single person involved in the production seemed to take ownership of our mission to bring the play’s joyous message to the community. I watched in awe as this rag-tag group of community college thespians and staffers went the second, then the third mile to bring those in-process pages to the stage.
By the time the final curtain fell, I no longer thought of Fairy Tale Academy as “my” script. After an intensely collaborative effort, it had become “our” play.
This experience shaped my thinking about what it can look like when believers come together to serve Christ. If there is an urgent call to a mission larger than our own individual agendas and each person’s gifts are desperately needed in order to complete the mission, our differences become beautiful strengths. His body becomes far more than the sum of its composite parts.
Paul underscores this truth in his letter to his friends at Corinth:
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor. 12:21-27 NIV)
If we are our Messiah’s body, disconnecting from one another is not an option. Nor is creating carefully-crafted truces in order to figure out how to coexist.
The interdependence Paul describes is animated by our response to the Father’s love for each one of us. The fact that Paul had to address the issue demonstrates that it doesn’t come naturally to any of us. Our life together is supernatural, transforming the rag-tag lot of us into a tangible expression of His character. Each person’s gifts are desperately needed by the others, every role must be filled. Our mission is far bigger and more eternal than simply creating a performance. We are invited to follow our Savior into the world.
Have you ever experienced a setting when the mission at hand is bigger than the artificial dividing walls that keep people from coming together?