When I look at Vincent van Gogh’s The Church in Auvers, I gripped by two questions: How do those that want to get in do so, and how do those that want to get out escape. Either way a church without way for entry or escape is frightening.
A church without way for entry or escape is frightening because it separates those within the church from those that help to make up their body. It also allows for those within the church to disregard the pain of those outside the church that may not be like them. If we are to be the visible church we will have to leave the buildings behind at different points in the week… in other words we’ll have to “get off the island”. We’ll also have to invite those who we wouldn’t normally have a propensity to invite in, into our sanctuaries and down to alter. As Paul stated in his post “we need to make visible in our church contexts the invisible reality of our transformed hears by faith through God’s love in our church contexts. Such invisible transformations of relationships, where we include rather that exclude people of diverse backgrounds.”
When churches begin excluding others, it takes on an island like mentality. Moreover it begins to become controlled by fear and ignorance, instead of Gospel truth. In order to overcome our fear and ignorance we must choose to live life with people; amongst the poor, the orphaned, the widow, and those that are different than us. We’ve created so many divisions out of fear that we’re no longer aware of the different cultures around us that we’ve alienated; forcing them to live in isolation, while allowing our churches to become islands of their on, only maintaining visibility with other churches like their own, and not necessarily their communities.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
John Donne’s poem: No man is island reflects how some Christians have been doing church. No church is an island and yet we live as if we were many different islands, without connection to other churches or the people that make up the communities that surround them. We’ve become protectors of our islands instead of people who are seeking the greater good that can only be found in seeking after the heart of God. His heart is not concerned with protecting our man made structures that nurture oppression. His heart is always grieved for the outcast, the poor, the orphaned, and widowed, as well as those that have been scared by the whip of injustice. Jesus never lived his life as if he were an island, and goes against his very nature, and since we are the church…his bride we cannot live our lives in such a way either. But realizing that every man, women, and child; no matter their race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc. is part of our greater whole.