I was at a conference a couple of years ago where the speaker, Reggie Joiner, gave out rubber bands to everybody in attendance. When he stepped on stage he instructed the audience to the throw the rubber bands at each other. There was plenty of laughter as rubber bands flopped against shoulders around the arena. He then instructed us to shoot the rubber band at the person seated next to us. Of course, he quickly took that instruction back before somebody got hurt. As Joiner moved on with his message, which was very good, this object lesson stuck with me. It illustrated well that where there is tension there is power.
Obviously, the power that is generated from places of tension can have, and has had, horrific effects on the people of the world. Wars break out because of tension. Bombs are dropped. Men and women kill each other, and children are orphaned and murdered. Eventually one side forces the other into submission, but nobody ever really wins. We all lose when tension leads to violent demonstrations of power.
It’s hard to stomach thoughts about the realities and effects of war. Unfortunately, it’s often easier than admitting that I am guilty of allowing personal tensions and frustrations with others – even my family and friends – to be unleashed in disgusting demonstrations of my own power as I put myself first above all else. I’ve hurt the people I say that I love on purpose. I have intentionally aimed to make others feel worthless compared to me. You have done it too. All that is left in the wake, when all of our power has been exerted and spent, is perpetual division, conflict, and brokenness.
Reggie Horne, in his message entitled Faith where he references the language of Fredrick Douglas, says “when we focus our faith on anything other than Jesus, we end up with a faith that leads to failure and defeat; a faith that will crush our souls and darken our minds.”
Here’s the thing, I’m not sure that we should make it our goal to just relieve tensions and lay down our rubber bands. I believe we were made for tension by being created by God to be unique and relational at the same time. You have your own gifts, talents, and skills, and we each have our own backgrounds and stories that give us different, but valuable, perspectives and insights. The idea shouldn’t be to make the tension disappear but to learn how to harness its generated power and aim it together instead of at each other. The only way that happens is if we keep our eyes on Jesus, submit ourselves to the Spirit, and strive together towards making Jesus known; that’s what we were made for.
A few months ago Chip and Joanna Gaines, from the HGTV show Fixer Upper, received some negative press because of their countercultural beliefs regarding homosexuality. They let the dust settle a bit before Chip published a blog post responding to the tension that had arisen. Here is a quote from Chip’s post that I found encouraging:
“If your position only extends love to the people who agree with you, we want to respectfully challenge that position. We propose operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you. Fear dissolves in close proximity. Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side” (emphasis added).
He is picking up on the language that Paul uses in Philippians 1:27-28; “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.”
Church, our culture desperately needs the unifying power of Jesus. If we are going to take the gospel to them then we first need to see that we were created, and have been called, to work together to make Jesus known. Paul gives us a good place to start in Philippians 2:3-4 on; “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Something big happens when we lean into each other for the sake of the gospel. Consider the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 or Paul confronting Peter in Galatians 2. There are many places where tensions rose in the New Testament church, but as they looked to Jesus and pressed in by the Spirit, the gospel advanced to the nations.
What would happen today if we humbly looked to Jesus and leaned into the tension together in our homes, in our DNA’s and missional communities, and in our church?
Over the next few weeks we will talk more about handling our tensions and conflicts, the importance of listening to the perspectives of others, and how to strategically aim our rubber bands together to proclaim the gospel loudly.
For today, may we pray and find resolve to lean in together and to be found “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”