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Often faith is viewed, or talked about, as an either/or choice, as opposed to a both/and invitation. We talk about people either being saved or not. We either are a person of faith or were not. And yet Jesus most often talks about faith in terms of a paradox, using both/and: we are both the children of God and lost. We are both individuals and part of a community. We are both people of faith and of doubt. As the apostle Paul says, we’re both saved and sinners; both heirs of heaven and children of this world.
In terms of missions we have an impasse in our community in which some voices look at mission as an either/or. Either we support professional missionaries, or we do mission ourselves here. We either give to fund missions, or do it with our own time. We either encourage global missions or do so with local mission efforts.
Acts 1 tells of the promise of Jesus to send the Spirit. Jesus is both going to be absent and be present. This Spirit of God will be like Jesus in his absence, and send the disciples (men and women!) unto all the world: starting in Jersualem, to Galilee, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The story of the Acts of the Apostles follows that pathway, ending not in Antartica or Australia, but rather in Rome – the capital city of the Empire – the captial of the “known world” at that time. Jesus sends the disciples not either to the Jews or to the Gentiles (everybody else), but to both the Jews and the Gentiles.
1 Corinthians is a letter of pastoral advice sent from the apostle Paul to the ancient Greek urban center – the city of Corinth (it still exists today). Plauged with stances taken in terms of either/ors – either you’re accepted or not, either you’re welcome to the agape table or not, either you eat Kosher and are good – or not. Paul subverts and inverts their oppositional stance into an inclusive, life-giving one of both/and. They’re both individuals and a community. They’re both gifted personally and gifted to benefit the larger community. They’re both individual parts of the body and the body together – each indispensable. Where the ancient world, following the thoughts of the philosphers like Socrates and Plato, thought of the body as having more important parts – the head, and hands. Paul says that the parts that should be the most honored are the “lesser parts: – the feet, the legs….it’s a radical world-transforming vision of equity and diversity in the community of those who follow Christ and make Jesus visible in the world through their actions.
Question for Going Deeper:
1. What grabs your attention in these texts?
2. How are you – or we as a church – trapped in either/or thinking?
3. How do you, or we, act in terms of both/and?
4. In terms of mission work which is greater – global, local?; giving money, giving time?; evangelism or justice-doing?