The dangers of a single story

Video: The danger of a single story
We watched this video presentation a couple of days ago at work. Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, tells how the first books she loved to read were about British schoolchildren with blue eyes playing in the snow and enjoying ginger beer, and then tells how when she went to the US to study, her roommate assumed she wouldn't know how to use a stove because all she'd heard about Africa was the story of famine and poverty. She says just knowing one single story about another country or another people is a great weakness.

I wonder if in church we aren't guilty of presenting a single story. The story that we've all arrived, we're all OK now. The story that God has solved all our major problems because we're mature Christians.

But Scripture celebrates people who reached the end of their lives believing God would do something, but hadn't yet seen it:

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—  the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, Hebrews 11:36-39
Scripture tells the story of Peter, who one terrible day asserts that he'd never known Jesus, but then Jesus forgives him, not just forgives him but restores him to leadership. Or the story of John, who before writing inspiring verses that God is love, wanted to call down fire from heaven on people who didn't want to listen. Luke 9:54.

So let's present all the stories God tells in our lives. The stories that even now we may struggle, wonder what God is doing, but don't go away because there is nowhere else to go. The stories how we have not arrived yet, but we're still traveling in hope, trusting that God will do great things even when we don't know when he'll do them.

Gospel conflict

Some thoughts about conflict in light of the Gospel:

The world seeks status and power. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them." (Luke 22:24).
How people lord it over others:
Compel: force others to do your will
Silence: forbid others to speak.
Expel: drive opponents out of the organization, out of the country
Shame: who are you to question? All of us, all right thinking X people agree”
Maneuver: steal the election, time the vote, be the last one to edit the document, see the boss, or be the first one to see the boss.
The powerless also have fleshly reactions to their leaders. These consist of:
Bitterness, scorn or sarcasm
Ignoring directives, avoiding contact
Passive-aggressive sabotage: deliberately implementing something in a way you know won't work, while saying it was what you were asked to do.
We are not to use the weapons of the world: (2 Cor 10:4)
  • “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Matthew 18:5
  • if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, … go and be reconciled to your brother Matthew 5:23
The Gospel method: go, in humility listen to your brother, and in humility and gentleness explain.
Ephesians 4:1,2
… “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Be ready to forgive. “Forgive your brother seventy times seven times”.
Why listen and explain?
  1. If you are right, you might persuade your brother. Chances are he won’t be persuaded if he is compelled, silenced, shamed or maneuvered. If you expel him, are you sure God did not call him to this task as well as you?
  2. If you are wrong: a private conversation is the least stressful way to find this out.
Remember, God calls fallible people to fulfill his purposes. That’s why you are involved. We are to have confidence not in who we are but in who we are in Christ. Who Christ can make us to be. Have confidence also in who your brother and sister are in Christ.
Do not compel, silence, expel, shame or maneuver within the body. Listen and explain. Pray for one another.
Two Scriptural examples: 
Jethro visits Moses (Exodus 18)” He says to Moses “What you are doing is not good” (17) “Appoint men to be judges, they can solve the simple cases (v 21)” 
How Moses did not react:
  • Were you there when God spoke to me in the burning bush?
  • Were you there when I threw down my staff and it became a snake?
  • Were you there when God divided the sea?
        How dare you tell ME what I’m doing is not good!
No, Moses listened and in humility adopted Jethro’s advice.
The Twelve heed a complaint (Acts 6:1-7) “the Grecian Jews complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the distribution of food” 
How the Twelve did not react: “We’ve been with Jesus since the beginning. Who are you to question US?”
They said “Maybe they have a point. Besides, distributing food isn’t what we should focus on. Let’s get help.” And they appointed SEVEN GREEKS to distribute the food. They were willing to trust the frustrated minority with the task.
Do not compel, silence, expel, shame or maneuver within the body. Do not shun, write off or ignore. Listen and explain. Pray for one another. In all humility and gentleness be patient and bear with one another. Believe that the God who called you to this task also called your brother and sisters. It may be obvious to you how unqualified they are. But God has called unqualified people before and enabled them to do his work. Its actually one of his specialties.