As people become more divided, this division has found its way even into the body of Christ. From one united group at Pentecost as described in Acts chapter 2 to thousands of different sects today, the body is fractured to the point of shattering.
I called this blog “Shatterpoint” for two reasons. First, I am a huge Star Wars fan and second, as a Star Wars geek, I knew that the Shatterpoint technique, lorewise (recently declared non-canon by Disney), didn’t just represent a “win” button–it goes deeper than that.
The idea behind a shatterpoint (also called a “fracture”) is that there are individuals who can see where things come together and note the weak points. In an object, a shatterpoint could be used to, well, shatter the object. In events, a shatterpoint can be used to alter events to cause them to transpire differently than they might have had the shatterpoint not been perceived and affected. In events, though, these shatterpoints often exist for only the briefest of moments, meaning that any action has to occur at just the right time or the moment is lost forever. Most often in Star Wars, shatterpoints are used in order to defeat enemies… but that does not mean that an individual could not use the same technique to benefit allies or prevent them from coming to harm. Quite the opposite: there are occasions in lore when that is precisely how it is used.
So why, besides the fact that I do like pop culture and the Episode VII premiere is two weeks away (you can’t see me, but I’m doing a happy dance) am I spending two paragraphs on a fictional technique in a fictional universe?
Because Han Solo is awesome, that’s why.
Because even fiction and pop culture have lessons we can learn if we’re willing (both Marvel and DC Comics have been putting important themes in their comics for decades). Every moment in time is a moment that we have to affect the outcome of an event–for ourselves, for another, for the body of Christ. Every word we speak or action we take pushes events and pushes people–either towards God or away from God–and that is true even within the body of Christ.
How does this relate to the body of Christ? The human body has 270 bones at birth. By adulthood, this decreases to 206 bones. The body of Christ has approximately 38000 sects (low estimates say 25000, high estimates say 43000. Most moderate estimates agree on the 33000-40000 range, putting the number comfortably around 38000), with most saying they they are the true Church. But what does Scripture say about who is a member of the body of Christ?
Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. …so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 25-27
…you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:19-22
There is one body and one Spirit …speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. …we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:4, 15-16, 25
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:15
What is notable about this is that Scripture is not in the habit of repeating itself unless there is something important, something necessary for the reader/hearer to grasp above all other things. We see this with the commandment of Jesus to love and we see it again here with the establishing of the fact that there is one body with many functioning parts.
Waitaminnit–You mean to tell me that the priests and pastors who have told me that if I’m not a member of their denomination and a member of their specific church body (as opposed to the church down the street that is a part of the same denomination) are wrong? They are teaching as doctrine the traditions of men? And Scripture–Jesus Himself, actually–has something specific to say about that?
Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Matthew 15:7-9
Oh wow–it’s like this Jesus fellow–and not the guy behind the pulpit–is the head of the Church or something ! Whoda thunk? And He says that if His Spirit teaches me, I’m going to be able to sort all this out real quick (paraphrasing, of course).
Jesus gave us a whole bunch of examples of spirit versus letter of the Law as well. First, we have the example of the Samaritan woman with five husbands and the man she was currently with wasn’t her husband. Under the Law, that’s a stonin’. Well, okay, she was a Samaritan and they weren’t really considered proper Jews, so maybe that one doesn’t count…
Well, what about the woman caught in adultery? Caught in the very act. The Law is super clear about that–even says it more than once. Huh? Oh. You have to bring the man and the woman out. And how did they catch her in the act, anyway? And have two or more witnesses as the Law demands? Well, crap. Yeah, ok, that one doesn’t quite mesh up with the letter of the Law in every way, either when you get right down to it. 0 for 2. Hmm…
Oh! I know! Jesus Himself–the only human to ever have kept the Law perfectly, without stumbling in even the smallest part–healing (which was considered work for a Prophet)–on the Sabbath. Well, what does the Law tell us about working on the Sabbath?
…Huh. And yet, Jesus is the only human in the entire history of all humanity to have kept the Law in its entirety, even though the letter of the Law would seem to indicate that He broke it right here. 1 for 3…
Moving on, David. Man after God’s own heart who slept with a guy’s wife (and she knew exactly who she was and who she was married to because her family members served on his council–go read thourgh his list of advisers and pay close attention), then killed the guy. Nice guy, David (to be fair, he did repent). Ate the showbread, which is one of those big no-no’s that’ll get you struck dead. Yet Jesus was all like “hey, it’s cool. He did the righteous and right thing there.” Uh… you lost me with the “not struck dead instantly when he touched it” part there, Jesus…
On top of that, the letter of the Law was really quite clear about what a person put into their bodies. Jesus said that it wasn’t what went into a man that made him unclean but what came out of him. Wait, what? How can that be? The letter of the Law is very specific, so Jesus is advocating breaking the letter of the Law again? But…
Ok, maybe He’s talking about the Talmud there. The Talmud is called law, but it is, in a nutshell, ancient Rabbinical writings which, in Orthodox Judaism, constititute the basis of religious authority. A Karaite will emphatically tell you that it is man’s law; it is not God’s Law as given to Moses and written down–it’s not Torah. It is presumed that the Talmud (or giving the Talmud the same divine authority as Scripture) is what Jesus refers to when He speaks of teaching as doctrine the traditions of men (something which the modern church is also guilty of–the Christian Church has its own problems with teaching as doctrine the traditions of men).
So why is there such a perceived inconsistency between Jesus’ words and deeds–that the only Man ever to perfectly keep the Law in its entirety also seems to have not followed the letter of the Law on several occasions? Moreover, why did Paul and the Apostles do the same thing–not separating themselves from Gentiles, not forcing the Gentiles to be circumcised and follow Mosaic Law to the letter?
Could it be that love is the spirit of the law? And that by acting in love and deliberately choosing to love (because it is a choice and an action as well as an emotion), we are fulfilling the Law? Could this be what Jesus meant when He said that to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves was to fulfill the Law?
Let me give a more practical example. I have a friend who is like a little brother to me. In the past week, this friend had a choice to make: follow the letter of the “law”–the policy at his job–or do what was morally the right thing to do and still within the spirit of resolving the matter under the circumstances. Had I been in my friend’s shoes at that moment, I would have made the same choice that he made… and been subject to the same consequences.
You see, as a result of his decision to do what was morally right in that situation instead of blindly adhering to policy (written law) regardless of circumstances or situations, my friend lost his job–but the company is treating it as a situation where the company downsized and eliminated his position rather than a termination for cause because the situation was such that even senior management recognized the policy–the letter of the law–did not allow for morality or doing the right thing.
Life is not always “black and white.” There are shades of grey. This is why we have wisdom and discernment. This is why in ancient times, judges such as Moses and Deborah were appointed over the people–judging was part of a prophet’s job. In later times, the people approached kings such as David and Solomon (the infamous “cut the baby in half” judgment whereby Solomon discerned who the child’s real mother was is a fine example of wisdom and discernment). Today, most churches have a system in place to settle disputes before they ever see a court of secular law. And all of this was and is necessary because the letter of the Law does not cover some of these weak points–the Law of Love, however, does. It tells us exactly how we are to behave in any situation: “Love one another. As I have loved you…by this all men will know that you are my disciples.” And love doesn’t keep an accounting of debts owed or wrongs done.
I spoke earlier in this post of shatterpoints and how they can alter events so that they transpire differently than they may have otherwise based on the actions we take in those moments. Each day, every action we take has the potential to be a shatterpoint–we simply don’t know how a kind word or a kind act of intentional love may be the thing that causes a person to choose to take a different path than the one they were planning. I have read tales of how the kindness of a stranger giving his umbrella to a girl leaving her mother’s funeral caused her to realize that there is kindness in the world, that someone cares… and prevented her from committing suicide that night.
Last week, I read a story of a businessman in California who had a chance encounter with a homeless veteran. He bought the veteran lunch and spent a total of about fifteen minutes with this man. As a result, this businessman raised several thousand dollars and gained the support of many volunteers to purchase and distribute tents, blankets, coats, socks, shoes, hats, and gloves to the homeless in his area as well as buy food for them. He additionally was contacted by organizations who build houses for homeless veterans, letting him know that they could get that particular veteran into a home.
In another instance that I read this week, a church ordered pizza during a service. They’d planned on giving a $100 tip. Once the delivery driver arrived, they instead asked him to come onto the stage and each member of the congregation tipped him one by one. That delivery driver walked out of there–in tears–with a $700 tip.. That young man, who had been struggling to stay off drugs, said that the act gave him the thing he’d been missing in his struggle: hope and the knowledge that his life had purpose.
Each of these examples was a shatterpoint–an opportunity to alter the outcome or to cause events to happen differently than they otherwise might have. And each person involved acted in that moment to alter an outcome.
There also is a shatterpoint at this moment where the Body of Christ is concerned, and the actions we take will alter everything that comes afterwards: either to fracture and cause disunity or to prevent harm and schism. We no longer have the luxury of dividing ourselves by sect and traditions of men, nor the privilege of being bickering accusers. But for those who do not recognize this shatterpoint for what it is, the moment will soon be lost forever.
We have a choice every minute of every day: we can follow Caiaphas or we can follow Christ. We can follow the letter of the Law or we can follow the spirit of the Law. We can choose death or we can choose life. And to be fair, we are all human and make mistakes or have bad days when it is hard to control our tongues–that is normal. The question is, are we choosing the way of Caiaphas–the way of death–consistently? If so, then perhaps now, in this time of gratitude, giving, and joy, is the time to do something about that and make the change to consistently choosing to follow Christ and life.