Nerd. Jock. Cool. Geek. In. Out. My childhood involved moving 7 different times by the age of 12. Consequently, I spent considerable time observing people to discover where I belonged. I looked for similarities and differences in others to assess whether I’d fit in. This is a human instinct for survival. Find people who look like you, eat like you, and talk like you to belong.
We love to categorize, North Americans more so than other cultures. In the Church, we’ve unwittingly categorized. Have you prayed a prayer? Do you go to Church? Baptized? Yes, no. In, out. Behave a certain way, you’re a Christian. Don’t and you aren’t. Behave another way and you’re a mature Christian. Don’t and well… I’m not sure.
Mathematicians and social scientists call the in/out sorting of objects or people, bounded-set theory. We categorize and we sort. Boundaries are placed between items or people to bring order. Categorization brings order and predictability.
Jesus didn’t operate this way. It’s why the Pharisees were uncomfortable with Him associating with tax collectors and prostitutes. It’s why they assumed he was a drunk and a glutton, because He kept company with drunks and gluttons. Jesus’ way is called a centred-set theory.
Centered-set is a trajectory, or journey – movement of items towards a destination.
In Revelation 22:13 Jesus says,
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
The Greek word for beginning, arche, is like our English word archetype and means the first in a series. The Greek word for end is telos. Telos means destiny. Jesus is the first human of many, and the destiny of humanity. Scripture tells us He’s drawing all people towards Him. Not only to know Him as Saviour, but to become like Him. [i] I’m not saying that all respond to this active drawing of God, but He is drawing us none the less.
Why does this matter? A centred-set paradigm empowers me to cross over man-made boundaries and journey with people different from myself. Behaviour and appearance don’t determine belonging. Knowing the Holy Spirit is drawing people towards the Son releases me to journey alongside of them, encouraging them towards Jesus, while they do the same for me.
At Beulah we encourage people to live BLESS. Begin with prayer, Listen to others, God and self, Eat together, Serve and share your Story. By choosing to join Jesus in His centred-set paradigm, we can pray for people in our lives who don’t fit our mold, we can draw closer relationally to those we may have previously rejected or felt intimidated by, and we can share life with them. Eventually our proximity and our knowledge of their story make way for an opportunity to serve them. And yes, eventually, they will ask us about our story.
The centred-set lifestyle of Jesus has freed me from boundaries which restricted me in sharing life with others. Let’s ask Jesus to shift us away from bounded-set living to centred-set living and continue to become a community living BLESS.
[i] Darrell Johnson, Discipleship on the Edge: An Expository Journey Through the Book of Revelation (Vancouver, Canada: Regent College Publishing, 2004), 32.