Sunday, May 25, 2008

Biblical Real Estate

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
-- Matthew 18:20

This is one of those cheerful verses in Christianity. And it really is. It is encouraging to realize that coming together can allow us to experience God in powerful ways. But sometimes we forget to read around it. Like in real estate, we need to ask Where is it located? and What is around it?

Take a moment to read Matthew 18 here, and consider verse 20 with these two questions. This chapter begins with the disciples asking, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" It was a question with the power to divide them. Following this is the parable of the lost sheep, in which a shepherd leaves the 99 sheep (people) that are already safely gathered in so he can go looking far and wide for the one sheep that's wandered away from the others. Next is Jesus' teaching about persistently pursuing reconciliation with one who has offended another. It is here that Matthew 18:20 ties most directly. All of that was apparently not enough, as the chapter ends with another parable, this time about someone who has been forgiven much but is not willing to extend that grace to others.

Consider Matthew 18:20 in this context. "Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." To come together in the "name" of Jesus is to come together in a manner consistent with his nature. The context here seems to point to the grace-full and relational aspects of God's character. As Philippians 2:5-11 so poetically describes, the nature of God is humble and loving, sacrificially seeking the good of others. This is the kind of Being who is not content to just have a church full of Christians when there are still more who need to know God. The nature of God teaches us to take the initiative in seeking reconciliation, whether we are the offender or the offended. It is this God who tempers justice with mercy. When we come together in the name of Jesus -- unified in that which is most important to him -- it is then that we experience God's presence in incredible ways.

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