For those of us privileged enough to spend our lives working with motivated people from around the world—who think of little else than the power of God that changes that world—it’s easy to not recognise that we are both a miniscule minority and an oddity. The oddity comes as no surprise: Take a look around you, starting in the mirror…However, the sense of peculiarity in subjugating all our various identities to a single reality—‘one in Christ’—may grow dim over time. It does so to our loss.
One of the ‘hot’ terms this year in our movement is ‘globalisation’. Everybody believes in it, anybody can try to define it, and nobody really wrestles with what it will mean personally. For nearly six decades, OM has boasted about our ‘internationality’ (“Now from over 110 nations!”) which has been a testimony of sorts. However, we should have kept going, and should keep going, to exhibit how unity in Christ transforms that UN-style photo op into true globality: It matters not if we are from 200 countries; now we are one in Christ and shall be for eternity—end of story. Isn’t that the better message?
Nationalities, after all, are man-made constructs whose purpose is to contrast, to divide, to exalt and debase, to wield power and influence, to promote one flag and anthem rather than a shared humanity. It is the ultimate status quo, but whether we are imprisoned by a nation’s worldview is ultimately up to us.
In fairness, as a movement we enjoy a high degree of bonhomie, sincerity and even love between us because we are different. I love the fact that, between several hundred colleagues and myself, the topic of denomination, for example, has never been raised. The Apostle Paul understood what labelling people does to relationships. He saw what could and would happen if Christians failed to transform their identity base from nationality, religion and race to the truly equalising and liberating ‘one in Christ’. He testifies of his own process and decision:
“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more…[listing his national and legal credentials]…But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.” (Philippians 3:4–9, NIV)
Certain of this quantum shift, Paul is determined that Christians realise what it is “to put on the new self…Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:10–11, NIV). Different church, same message: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV).
Let us extrapolate on this, and contextualise some ‘neithers’ about ourselves, our movement and the buzz about being global. Young or old, artistic or practical, extrovert or introvert, Korean or American, Afghan or Brit, Zambian or Brazilian: neither, neither, neither. We step away from stereotypes of others and one another, from deep-seated beliefs about our culture’s superiority or way of doing things, of pretending to respect others’ views but merely imitating grace. We come to what our director calls ‘the third roundtable’ (passport-free) not with an agenda to triumph but in amazement and humility to find ourselves there. We work as equal partners, making joint decisions about our future. Since all of us have been called by the same Master to this greatest of tasks, it is everyone’s business.
In Christ there is no East or West,
in Him no [Global?] South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.
William Dunkerly, 1908
I joined OM while Earth was still cooling (1978) and have had the privilege of serving on the ships, Finland, Canada and globally as part of the OMNI team. Anni (Finland) and I have two adult children who are also OM grads. I still wake up most mornings and think, “I can’t believe that I get to do this!”