Call me naïve, but I’ve been consistently surprised by the lack of unity between different Christian groups on campus. I assumed that in such a large institution where many values are espoused which bump against our own convictions as people of faith, Christians of all backgrounds would come together as a common witness on campus. Sure, denominations may differ and off campus we might never run into each other, but in this place the message of God’s kingdom arriving in Christ is the same from one chaplain or club to another.
Not so. As my hope for a mythical campus-Christian-unity fades, I am learning that there are more Christian groups on campus than anyone can count. Each competes for funding, for space, for students, and- of course- for “truth” (sound familiar??). And I am not exempt. Some of the other Christian leaders make me distinctly uncomfortable as I find myself having more in common with our Muslim and Jewish student groups. The name “Christian,” it would seem, doesn’t mean any one thing on campus. In fact, sitting in the chapel in my collar recently, a student asked me if I was really a Christian!
The Christian life in university, it would seem, is merely a microcosm of the Christian life in the world. We are the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is broken. The ear does not speak to the hand and the hand is convinced it doesn’t need the foot. In a community of 30 000 it is more obvious than when we’re spread across the world, making my heart hurt a little more and my mind race a little faster as I wonder what to do about this situation.
The problem, I find, is not generally with those who hurt over our disunity. Those groups are happy to share resources, to dialogue about their differences, and to work together despite their varied doctrines (on good days, at least!). With those who think disunity is a good thing, however, and those who refuse to dialogue with those who are different from themselves, I have a much harder time. Who do these people think they are, claiming to have a corner on MY Gospel?? I ask myself angrily.
Our Gospel for All Saints, I think, gives us some insight about moving forward in these situations. Jesus is describing the coming kingdom, which is being planting right in front of his listeners among the people they least expected: the poor, the hungry, and the mourning (the uneducated, the young, and the stranger??) The kingdom, he tells us, is a place where people forgive one another. They care for the needs of those who have hurt them, and they pray for their enemies. Do you have any idea how hard it is to pray for your enemies?? It’s basically impossible. That’s why I use prayer as a test to see if I can forgive someone: if I can pray for them, I’ve forgiven them. If I can’t, I still have some work to do.
Unfortunately, in this Body of Christ our enemies are sometimes members of our own body. In Luke 6:27-31, Jesus is showing us where to begin as we seek the kingdom even within the Church (which is not yet the kingdom). The kind of love he describes there is really hard, but it’s also the kingdom we hope for, the one the saints lived and died for. Our body may be broken, but Christ cries out for us to be healed.