There is a phrase: “The Royal “we”” – the use of the corporate “we” when talking about “family business”. I keep bumping into that in prayers. When “we bring” this and “we offer” that and “we pray for this” and “we pray for that”.
I bumped into that thought (as I used the same “royal we” in those open prayers of intimacy) during a gathering that was both challenging and intimate. The first step in a journey together – from “followers to friends”. Stepping together with the One who connects us all.
“All I have known is (this brand name denomination) for five decades. The language we use (in this denomination) is my language. And what you call “labels” and “church speak” is how I speak. I use the words I use because they are all I know – and they are what I believe – they are legitimate words.”
A paraphrase of something said. At least two of us feeling unsafe. Or is that “challenged” – and is that different from being unsafe?
There was “a fog” at that point. A sense of not knowing where this was going, why all these questions and challenges, why no obvious reason for another’s discomfort, why such “nit picking” on language we all use all the time … the language of the spiritual Royal Family to which we each belong.
We have a Royal Family in the UK. The struggles of the spouses marrying into the Royal Family come to mind. The struggles of “why?” … why the “fighting the establishment” … the pain of the “nods and winks” of a language I will never master … of those who assume I will (and can and should) … of assuming I too will put aside my own sense of right and wrong .. my own experience and my own moral compass for “the good of the family” .. the growing frustration of “is this as good as it gets?”
We have a number of royal marriages that have crumbled under that duress. All recorded and charted in great detail in the global news media. Royal Families splitting asunder is big juicy news!
I wonder if the twelve disciples had the same kinds of conversations as they sat around the camp fire night after night with Jesus. I wonder if the “sameness” of these “issues” happens generation after generation – each generation working through “relationship issues” with God and each other. I wonder how the twelve disciples digested and chewed over what they had seen and heard each day – these followers to friends – this kind of seeing and hearing:
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ Then the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’ Then they said to him, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” John 8:12-20
In the bad old days when black was black and white was white – when knowing right from wrong was easy-peasy – when it was always the Pharisees wot done it, guv’nor! The Pharisees who (obviously) no longer exist – but are forever branded as the bad boys of the bible. I wonder –
Can age and experience – the length of time we have been doing something – our proficiency in something … can that be a hindrance to anything (if we allow)?
Can being “a Christian” for decades be as much a “hindrance” as having rejected the Lord and church for those same decades? Is this much-lauded “maturity in Christ” – which always seems to be measured in years of “coming to the Lord” – just another self-imposed obstacle to closer relationship (if we allow)?
And is “being around” a certain type of “Christian” a good thing or not? And why do we prefer to be around Christians so much? Why do we not see Christ in each living creation – maybe dormant – maybe silent – maybe screaming love in words we do not recognise as “the love of God” – a love and language that sees denomination – sees “religion” – as too constricting?
And when we come together in love – just who is my relationship with? When the disciples came together night after night – away from the hustle and bustle of “ministry” – who was their relationship with?
And why did Jesus choose that way? A small number – a “core” – a bunch of non-obvious “spouses” joining this spiritual Royal Family. Where was all the “why” stuff? Where was the common language they had to learn? Where was all the putting aside individuality in favour of the corporate “we”? Because they were also the product of “bad religion” – they also had the temple industry and the “Temple Tradition” (just as we have our own “Christian Tradition”). They had “issues” – they had “but it is complicated” (much more than us!) – they had challenges – they felt unsafe from time to time (probably most of the time).
So just why did God Soft Hands Jesus “make disciples” that way – and why do we so rarely (even though we love to quote “The Great Commission”)?