The Mark (aka Lost in Translation, part 2)
March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
There was a Church Growth study that came out over 20 years ago. It listed the three most important rooms in a church facility when it came to visitors. They were (in order), the Nursery, the Ladies’ Restroom and the Sanctuary. Essentially, what this study revealed was that by the time a visiting family entered into that church’s worship space, they had already determined whether or not they would return a second week. Before the sermon. Before hearing the music. It really is that practical at times.
Similarly, Jesus has offered a practical litmus test for the Church – a ‘mark’ (Francis Schaeffer coined this term in his booklet, The Mark of the Christian) that will determine whether or not the outside world will receive the Christian message as credible. We celebrate this defining characteristic each Maundy Thursday when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. That word ‘Maundy’ comes from the Latin, ‘mundatum,’ and it means what it sounds like: Mandate, or Command. It is used in John 13:34-35 where Jesus says, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Here is the thing: Apart from an observable love our message will be lost in translation every time. Because the Culture can’t hear what we refuse to embody – it just doesn’t translate into a discernable, or maybe a better word is, desirable, message. Jesus understood this and set the bar high by declaring that it would be by our love for one another that the world would know that we are His. And it only follows that anything we would hope to speak into a broken world would have to first pass through the filter of a community that embraces the love it declares. In her book Living into Community, Christine Pohl writes, The best testimony to the truth of the gospel is the quality of our life together.
In a sense Jesus chose the most unlikely of dynamics to prove His own credibility to the world. Frankly, I am more comfortable thinking that I am evidence of all that is wrong with the world and the Church. But in some way that is the point. God demonstrates His grace through broken vessels and messy lives He redeems and weaves together in the fabric of love.
And so, amazingly, in spite of ourselves, it is in our life together, as God’s people, that we enter and speak into a world that reflects our own shattered stories, with evidence that Jesus has come with ‘healing in His wings’ (Malachi 4:2), born in how uncharacteristically we are enabled to love. And what more powerful message than one that demonstrates that God can take such a collection of messy, self-interested, often obsessed-on-the-meaningless, diverse and broken people, and knit them together into something beautiful? How could there be anything other than hope for those who long for such healing?
What Good News.