So we are called to be culture makers. Not sit back and endlessly critique. Not enter in and self righteously condemn. Nor are we called to gluttonously consume culture in its various forms either.We are to enter in and make spaces for gospel goodness to shine bright. But how?
It doesn’t take very long for me to read a blog post about a call to create culture before I start to feel my inner self get antsy and nervous. I know how this has played out in the past. I’ve felt the world on my shoulders and have moved in as its personal lever only to feel it crash down on me in frenetic glory when I take the one role I was never designed to take. The role of world changer, dear readers, is not my role.
Say it with me. This is important.
The role of world changer is not my role.
I’ve been camped out in John chapter 8 for a few weeks. Its the chapter when Jesus is confronted by both a woman caught in adultery and her accusers. The Pharisees desperately want their way of life, their rule keeping, validated. At this point they will throw anyone under the bus in hot pursuit.
So they cast a woman at Jesus’ feet and say, essentially, “You be the judge. You say you are God and you know the laws of God better than we do. So you tell us what to do with this woman who deserves judgement and a penalty.” (Never mind that there was clearly a man involved in this woman’s sin and yet no one is calling HIM to account. Pharisee Identity Awareness Week rule number one: if they’re not forthcoming with the WHOLE truth than their probably just trying to maintain a cherished identity and are best left to a corner petting their favorite teddy bear named “Pride.” The bottom will fall out for them at some point, I guarantee it. We’ll be ready to welcome them back to the table then.)
So what happens next? Jesus responds with a clearly articulated treatise on Mosaic law…
Ha! No, actually, that’s not how it goes.
Jesus bends over and starts drawing in the sand.
AND I JUST COULD NOT LOVE HIM MORE FOR THIS.
I love this because he’s giving the people in his midst a chance to get tired of themselves. He’s letting the Pharisees continue their finger wagging and he’s letting this woman continue in her despair and he is waiting for the moment when they all run out of breath. Finally, after we’re all wondering if he’s gone crazy on us, he holds up a verbal mirror to the woman’s accusers and says “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The older ones leave first, having lived long enough to know that they fall short of perfection. Then the younger ones follow suit if only because their mentors led the way. Soon its Jesus and the accused staring at whatever picture Jesus drew on the ground while he was waiting for everyone to just “Give up on it, already.”
I kind of wonder here what he drew for her. Maybe it was an Israeli emoticon. You know, the smiley face of his day. Maybe. I like to think Jesus had a sense of humor. But this was a weighty moment for this woman so likely not. The guy was as pastoral as it gets. I’m betting it was more like the image of a bird, standing at the open door to her cage, ready to take flight.
Most of us know how the story ends. He asks the woman who has condemned her and looking around she says, “Not a soul.”
Though lets be honest, there’s still one hold out. The clamor has died down and the urgency has given way to exhaustion and everyone has left the stage. Except Jesus. He’s still there in all his authority and has any number of options at his disposal. No ones looking after all. He could lay a final coat of shame on nice and thick and leave her wondering for the rest of her days why she was so stupid to have walked the road she walked. But he doesn’t.
He lets the bird fly free.
“Go now, and leave your life of sin.” He says. To put it another way…“Leave your life of missing ME in your midst.”
Readers: If this isn’t culture making, I don’t know what is.
At this stage in the game of life, the year 2017, we are not so different from the clamor of the temple courts where Jesus is making space, holding up mirrors and drawing pictures of birds getting ready to take flight. We are all vacillating between our sky high soap boxes or iron clad bird cages and wondering how we’re ever going to walk again with the wind at our backs.
The answer lies in culture making. The answer lies in making space. We hold up mirrors to the overconfident and kindly point out the logs protruding out of their eyeballs and then we invite them to join their other four fingers to the one that’s pointing at the ashamed woman on the ground and ask her, together, if she needs help standing up.
Why? Because we are all going to need help standing one day. You will. I will. Don’t let American independence fool you. It is a joke. Actually, let me rephrase that. It’s a lie. American independence is a lie that is propping far too many people up and I, for one, would like it to fall down in droves. It appears it already is.
This doesn’t negate the fact that our lack of independence can be scary, though I would argue, it doesn’t have to be. We can trust in the great “space maker.” He’s pushing back the crowds that roar to life this peculiarly jarring type of shame – a shame birthed from loneliness and fear – and says something pretty clear following his interaction with the woman. He says it both to her and to all of us who will stick around long enough to listen:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
To that I say: “Thank God.” Because the world needs a little more light. My soul needs a little more light. And I think yours might need it too. Lets keep making space for ourselves and for our neighbors. Pretty soon, I’m betting we’ll feel the wind at our backs. And with enough wind, everyone knows it won’t be long before we’re able to fly.