The place where different airflows or ocean currents come together or collide is called convergence. These places are turbulent and often scary. Following Jesus will lead us into them.
Jesus lived at a time and place of convergence. He lived in the collision between Jewish and Roman values and the clash between the Jewish religious law and Greek and Roman culture. According to the Bible, his living in that time and place wasn’t by accident. It was on purpose.
Living today in the collision between values
Those who follow Jesus today frequently live in places of cultural and moral collision. Consider three headlines carried in The Texas Tribune over the last several days:
“Texas House passes religious liberty bill amid LGBTQ Caucus’ objections”
“Texas House passes bill allowing handgun owners to carry weapons in church”
“Texas House advances bill banning cities from partnering with Planned Parenthood on any services”
These headlines are about more than legislative decisions. Behind each headline are divergent values and warring factions.
Beyond trying to legislate the convergence—which we have delegated to our senators and representatives—followers of Jesus are called to live in the convergence … on purpose … and it isn’t and won’t be easy.
The cultural response to colliding values
Fighting tends to be the normal response to the collision of values. The left rails at the right. The right rails at the left. The middle rails at the right and the left.
Passion fuels the fight. Each side is passionate about its respective position and wants to see its values codified into law. The problem is not every value can be codified equally. At least one position will be subordinate. And that’s the fear that aggravates the already turbulent convergence.
The Christians’ role where values collide
Those who follow Jesus are called into the midst of this turbulence. Some will be part of navigating legislation. Their job is exceedingly difficult and not made easier by fellow Christians condemning every move they consider to be wrong.
The vast majority of us will not be involved directly in legislation but are called to a different place in the convergence. We are called to be among the crowds. We are called to be present in the millions of places—the individual lives—where colliding values wreak havoc.
How will we be like Jesus there?
How will we be like Jesus in the outworking of an unplanned pregnancy in which the mother doesn’t know what to do and is considering all options?
How will we be like Jesus on the line between holding to traditional marriage and the living out of same-sex marriages in our neighborhoods?
How will we be like Jesus between the person who intends to open carry a pistol and the person who is adamantly opposed to firearms?
Our laws may provide legal rights, but they don’t tell us how to be like Jesus in those turbulent places.
It’s dangerous where values collide
A typical Texas spring is a perfect metaphor. Just as the collision of warm, moist air and cool, dry air sparks dangerous conditions, the coming together of numerous values within a pluralistic society can generate the kind of tension we experience today.
We can’t control the forces that lead to severe thunderstorms and tornados. We can only prepare, be alert and respond.
Likewise, we are witnessing around the world the difficulty of controlling value systems. Legislation may impose some control for a while, but history proves all human control is temporary. At some point, stability will give way to instability. Very often, instability gives way to turbulence and even violence.
We live in turbulent times, even violent times. Each side is passionate about their respective positions, passionate enough to yell at and threaten the other side. Some on each side are willing to harm and kill those on the other side. Some are more than willing.
Followers of Jesus, we are called into these turbulent and violent times. How will we be like him in them?
Being like Jesus where values collide
Christians, we will be like Jesus when we are prayerful, compassionate and faithful.
Being prayerful, compassionate and faithful is the first difficulty for Christians living in the collision of values. It’s difficult because, like everyone else, we want solutions—simple and direct answers to the problems in our lives.
Praying? We get that, but we’re not always sure it’s a solution. Many times, God seems to answer our prayers with silence, and silence doesn’t sound like an answer. Jesus was prayerful, and when the convergence was at its most turbulent, Jesus heard silence. Being like Jesus in that moment is accepting God’s will when it contradicts our will.
Compassion? We understand the need for it but are convinced it excuses wrong behavior. Jesus raised plenty of eyebrows by being compassionate to people who behaved badly. Jesus grieved when, after pointing to the truth, some of those people chose to walk away. Being like Jesus means being with and caring for people even when they reject your values.
Faithful? When the tornado touches down, we don’t always have a clear path to safety. In those moments, we become faithful to our preparation—however good or bad that preparation may be. When values collide, the right way forward isn’t always obvious. In those moments, we must be faithful to God who calls us into those times, even when the way doesn’t seem clear.
Live in the collision on purpose
We are living in the collision of values. The proof is everywhere we look.
Followers of Jesus must live in this convergence on purpose—prayerfully, compassionately and faithfully. And it won’t be easy.