Leslie Newbigin writes in his book The Open Secret, "The church faces the world . . . as a sign, firstfruit, token, witness of that salvation which God purposes for the whole. . . .The church is in the world as the place where Jesus, in whom all the fullness of the godhead dwells, is present, but it is not itself that fullness. It is the place where the filling is taking place (Eph. 1:23). It must therefore live always in dialogue with the world, bearing witness to Christ but always in such as way that it is open to receive the riches of God that belong properly to Christ but have to be brought to him" (p. 180).
The further I read this required text for my class, the more I am disturbed and enthused. It is equipping and challenging me to actually engage in the dialogue I claim to value as a Christian witness and professional chaplain. As a witness I enter into an encounter with another, hopeful that both of us will prosper. If I do not believe that dialogue will get both of us somewhere good, I will be tempted to think that mutual monologue is the best we can hope for. History shows that monologue leads only to isolation and best and war at worst.
Part of my problem is lack of trust which is a next-door neighbor to fear. Too often I am afraid of the stranger and his/her story. It may confuse me or "lead me astray." And so it is an act of faith in the Maker of us both that I dare to authentically listen. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit is arranging encounters and that he will work in all things for my good and his glory.
We claim that this is what we need in national and international politics. We want an end to partisan relationships. Let's begin closer to home. God only knows what would happen if we average citizens really believed that things of true value lay across the aisles that separate the generations, genders, ethnics, and religions.
When Peter and Cornelius had their conversation (Acts 10), both were changed for the better. The centurion found the name of the God he had sought and Peter's version of Christianity took a "decisive step . . . on the long road from the incarnation of the Word of God as a Jew of first-century Palestine to the summing up of all things in him" (p. 182).
Lord, please keeping working on and through me!