The Way of Reconnecting
Why I find the Jesus Way helpful in loving well.
In the single most unsurprising thing ever written, I as a pastor think about religion. I think about it an awful lot. For a long time whenever I thought about religion I did so in a negative way. There was almost an allergic reaction to the word for me. Religion, in my understanding was nothing more than a set of beliefs or rules, an attempt by humanity to reach God.
Over the years though, I have come to understand religion in a very different light. In my desire to run from religion I ran to Jesus. As I ran to Jesus I discovered that religion is good and beautiful. How can I say this? Because, I continue to learn that religion at its core is about re-connecting again and again those things or people that had been broken apart.
As I continue to pursue the way of Jesus I am dumbfounded by how I could not have seen this sooner. For so long my practice of faith was marked by creating in groups and out groups. It started with “Believers” and “Non-believers”. Within the “Believers” there were the “Committed” and “Nominal”. Within the “Committed there were the “Faithful, Available, and Teachable” and their counterparts.
I certainly was not practicing religion. My practice of faith simply functioned to divide and separate.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The Jesus way is rooted in this idea of love that crosses the disconnections. It is religion, that is, re-connecting again and again.
The love that Jesus describes here is not a love that is easy. It costs something. It demands that we set aside our innate desire to separate from and disconnect from those we consider enemies. Not only that, but we are to indeed love them. We are to treat them as neighbors. In the Jesus way we are to treat no one as part of the out-group. No, we are to move toward them in love seeking to re-connect with them.
Jesus also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but through me.” The longer I walk with Jesus the more I'm understanding this to mean that as we walk in the Jesus way, this way of self-sacrificial love, we will experience the Divine.
James, the brother of Jesus wrote, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
The control of your tongue in James is directly related to connection/disconnection (he uses the terms blessing/cursing). So, if you claim to be a “religious (reconnecting)” person but all you do is divide your religion is worthless. But, pure and faultless religion (reconnecting) is displayed in looking after orphans and widows. Why those folks? Because they are the embodiment of disconnection. Widows have been disconnected from their husbands. Orphans have been disconnected from their parents. The way of Jesus calls us to the practice of re-connection.
Why do I think this way of Jesus is the best way to practice re-connection (religion)? Because there is a foundation for bringing about re-connection. Jesus teaches the way of reconciliation and re-connection through forgiveness.
As I continue to realize my complicity in causing brokenness and disconnection I continue to find grace, mercy, and forgiveness in Jesus. I am often overwhelmed by a sense of forgiveness from those around me. This provides me an ample pool of grace to draw from to be a conduit of that same grace to help bring re-connection to this world of disconnection.
Perhaps at the end of the day, the most powerful aspect of the Jesus Way is that it's not an individual endeavor but by following his way I find myself part of something bigger than myself. This community of other practitioners of the Jesus Way helps spur me on to love well.