Thank you, New York.
You taught me how to be a better Christian, pastor and peacemaker this week.
For the past five days, my wife, my sisters, their husbands and I walked all over New York City with my parents as we celebrated their 60th anniversary.
New York is filled with some of the most amazing sights, sounds and spectacles on earth. But more than that, it’s filled with an extraordinary mix of people.
As grateful as I am for the chance to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, and to honor the fallen at the World Trade Center, the most memorable parts of this trip were the people we met.
Everyday, Extraordinary People
I had a random conversation about writing and entrepreneurship with an NYU student who had set up a table at Washington Square Park to sell his self-published book of poems.
Shelley and I listened to the stories of a 95-year-old Romanian man who was in town for the 100th anniversary of the reunification of Romania.
Our whole family received genuine, warm hugs, smiles and prayers from fellow members of the body of Christ in one of the most racially diverse churches on earth – Brooklyn Tabernacle.
We got to meet up with Dave and Cheyenne, a Cornerstone couple who are having a once-in-lifetime adventure living in Brooklyn. Jack, a Cornerstone alum who’s taking a shot at making it on Broadway. And we got to see Cornerstone’s own JR rock the house with his band who just happened to be playing in New York while we where there.
But perhaps most memorably, we got to chat for about 15 minutes with a custodian at Ellis Island. This African-American grandmother told us the story of her family. Her face beamed as she showed us the grainy black-and-white photo of her white great-grandfather and black great-grandmother who had moved to New Jersey because blacks and whites couldn’t get married in Italy.
During a week in which the country was divided over another political, sociological and moral struggle, New York showed our family the best of America.
The church should be like that. We have been like that. We are still like that in many places. And we can be like that again.
The Church Can Rise Above Partisanship
When we’re at our best, the church isn’t just another group on one side of the partisan political conflict that pits people against each other.
We’re the ones who should be a shining light of hope that rises above it all.
Christ didn’t come so we’d have his stamp of approval for our political party. Whether we’re neo-evangelicals on the right or mainline believers on the left.
Through us, Christ can do today what he did when he walked on earth 2,000 years ago. When he was asked about the theological debate of the day (which mountain should we worship on?) or the political conflict of the moment (taxes to Caesar, yeah or nay?) he didn’t take the bait, he rose above it.
He told the woman at the well that worship isn’t about mountains, it’s about spirit and truth. And he elevated the political question about taxes toward the eternal principles of his kingdom. Give to God what is God’s.
The Healing Power Of The Everyday Church
While some in the church have become little more than another screaming voice in the never-ending circus of partisan politics, good people of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities and political parties regularly set all of that aside to come together as the body of Christ.
Even more than the good people of a great city, millions of unseen and unknown believers are showing us the best of the church every single day.
- They don’t argue, they talk.
- They don’t yell, they listen.
- They don’t debate, they pray.
- They don’t brag, they work.
- They don’t divide, they mend.
This is the church.
This is the body.
This is the city Christ is building.
It is set upon a hill.
It brings light, not darkness.
And it is beautiful.
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