Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world?
If you wear glasses, you may remember the first time you put them on. For me, it happened in the second grade. On the ride home with my first pair of glasses (with super stylish ’70s frames), I noticed the difference in the trees. Where before there had been just a green impressionistic blob, now there were individual leaves. They were distinct and beautiful. New glasses showed me what I didn’t even know I was missing.
Being a leader in the church of Jesus Christ means putting on a new set of glasses and taking a clear-eyed look. We are not an amorphous group of similar people. We are distinct. While we share some essential beliefs and values, we also hold different viewpoints and priorities. And when looking both within and outside our church walls for how to follow Jesus today, our divisions come into focus. Unlike distinct leaves on trees, these divisions are not always beautiful. They can be painful and ugly.
No matter when you read this, people of faith will be disagreeing passionately about matters fundamental to our lives. Pick any hot-button issue and people on all sides may talk about how their faith as a Christian led them to their viewpoint. We may wonder, “How can they call themselves a follower of Jesus and believe that?” We are divided by politics, race, economics, gender, ideology, and more. We can’t agree on how to read the biblical texts we hold most sacred. We don’t agree on what truth is. We don’t listen to the same experts or hear the same news, and none of us are without our own bias. What would Jesus have us do?
The church has faced these periods of division before, and we will again. Our confessions reflect our best vision of lived theology, often developed during periods of deep fundamental disagreements. Leaders before us have wrestled, prayed, then written and adopted successive statements of faith to guide us, in content and in process. Both the Confession of 1967 and the Belhar Confession speak pointedly to the church amid division. Our current climate makes this an excellent time to read and study them again, or for the first time. If they teach us anything, it is that — no matter what — God is still at work, and change is always possible.
The ordination question for this month asks if we will seek to follow Jesus, love our neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world, not just within the church walls and roles and gatherings but in our own lives, every day. The question hands us a new set of lenses to polish and put on — Jesus, love, reconciliation. This may sound to some like bias, but really, it is the gospel. It’s what you have signed up for as a leader in the church.
In second grade I was the only girl in my class to wear glasses. I got teased and called “four-eyes.” But deep down I knew the lenses were my superpower. If I could see the world the way it really was, I could also see how to make it better.
Lord, help us all see.
- What divisions within and outside the church weigh most heavily on you?
- What would reconciliation look like in these divisions? How can you seek it in your own life?
- How do the resources in Coming Alive in Christ deepen your understanding of this ordination question?
Rev. Julie Coffman Hester is a pastor and writer in the Presbytery of Western North Carolina. She is inspired by faithful ruling elders, like her parents, and the remarkable disciples with whom she has served in local congregations.
This article is the seventh in a 12-part series focusing on the constitutional questions that church leaders answer upon their ordination and installation, using some of the materials from Coming Alive in Christ: Training for PC(USA) Ruling Elders and Deacons Based on the Constitutional Questions, which is available through Equip, the church’s online training platform.