Today’s post, a reflection on the tension within Jesus’ incarnation and ministry, comes courtesy of Rob Daniels, executive pastor for the multi-ethnic Westbrook Christian Church in Bolingbrook, Il. Rob has been an influential partner behind the scenes in orchestrating Dream of Destiny’s recent Race & Restoration Summit.
My life has always been lived about dead center… in between a couple of worlds all at once. Trevor Noah wrote in a recent New York Times article…”When you grow up in the middle, you see that life is more in the middle than it is on the sides. The majority of people are in the middle…”
That is and has been my life. But I believe I am in pretty good company, A look at the life of Jesus finds him in the middle over the course of his entire life and ministry. From the very beginning of his life on earth Jesus was in the middle. He was and is the One who came to be God in human flesh. Both human and God… right between them both. Even when his parents behaved liked any normal parents would, Jesus cozied right up to the middle…
His parents did what good Jews did at Passover, as we read in Luke 2, and traveled to Jerusalem. They did this with the pre-teen Jesus at their side. Undoubtedly telling him to be mindful of the crowds and the hustle and bustle of a city awash with religious (and otherwise) strangers. Yet somehow when they left town to return home at the time Passover was ending or had ended, they loose track of the Son of God. Ok, first, just a few observances before we move on the main point. Ask yourself this… how in the world do you lose track of the Son of God? I mean, it’s almost comical. I can see them explaining it now…”Yes, well there is this one distinguishing feature about our little boy… He’s the Son of God, if that helps…”!
Anyway, when his parents do find him, Jesus with pre-teen accuracy describes his place in the space in between, we read in Luke 2:45-50 that the next day they found him in the Temple seated among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. The teachers were all quite taken with him, impressed with the sharpness of his answers. But his parents were not impressed; they were upset and hurt.
His mother said, “Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you.”
He said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?” (The Message)
The God “man”… on the one hand fretted over by human parents, going about the dealings that are to be the ultimate focus of his life and ministry on earth. That “space in between” that his life and ministry so beautiful exemplify. Both human and God in the flesh.
I’m good with life in the middle. I grew up this way. As a black man in an historically racialized society, I have spent the balance of my life navigating that route between the majority culture in our nation and what it has meant and continues to mean to be a black man. Everything from living and growing up in one of the most racially diverse communities in the nation to working in a faith tradition that one could make a case that has demonstrated indifference to the historic struggles of people of color in our nation.
Even my family exemplifies this “space in between” as I am black and my wife is white. Our kids are both of us… somewhere in the middle! Not quite one thing or the other but somewhere in the middle. I am coming to believe that this space in between gives me (and others like me) a truly unique perspective on most issues that so many in our nation quite possibly mistakenly believe to be this or that, one or the other, black or white. The truth actually lies someplace in the middle.
Life is not about extremes, it is in fact, nuanced. I would agree however, that the extremes are easier to deal with, easier to navigate and make it easier to conclude that those who aren’t with you, must be against you. But Jesus’ own example from all over the gospels makes a very clear case that living in and maintaining that space in the middle keeps a certain door to the souls of others open, maintains a certain level of credibility and provides easier to access to those who are on the margins of life.
So if you really want to reach people, I would say it’s critical to remember, that is where the majority of people are as well…
Somewhere, right in the middle.
About Rob Daniels
Rob Daniels serves as Executive Pastor of Westbrook Christian Church a growing, vibrant multi-ethnic church in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Having grown up in an ethnically diverse community and having a multi-ethnic family has shaped a unique perspective on issues related to race and ethnicity. In addition, having served on the staff of churches in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Naperville and Carol Stream, Illinois and Indianapolis has provided a wealth of practical insight on leadership issues in the local church.