The Church in Chaos

Rev. Craig Shepperd

Abstract: This essay looks at who the Church is to be in the midst of suffering, brokenness, and chaos.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36-37).

In the midst of chaos, we either push people away or we run towards them. Jesus demonstrates God’s desire to run toward chaos and suffering through his incarnation.[1] Where there are chaos and brokenness, Jesus takes on flesh and makes his dwelling among us.[2] He chooses to become our neighbor in our brokenness. Thus, it becomes the call of the Church to respond in likeness to the suffering, brokenness, and chaos in our world.

Yet, in order for us to respond in neighborly kinds of ways (justice, love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness) we have to be willing to identify with the hurting and broken. If this pandemic has done anything it has brought us closer to a level playing field. We are all in need of a neighbor. Thus, the call of the Church is to function as a microcosm of God’s Kingdom. It is precisely the Kingdom of God that provides a space where people join together as brothers and sisters.[3] For the church to embrace her calling she must allow herself to enter into solidarity with those experiencing brokenness and chaos. When we choose compassion, we see beyond ourselves so that we might live as a city on a hill. The Church is to be a city that lives in the light of another wisdom, as a sign of God’s coming kingdom.[4] This type of living sees no need to hoard personal hygiene products. This type of living does not give in to the idea of scarcity. The Church moves into the neighborhood and exemplifies neighbor-love as Jesus loved us. For us to accomplish such a task may I be so bold as to invite us into some neighborly practices that the world is in desperate need of in this particular season.

Compassion: a willingness to enter into the hurt and brokenness of another.

Reconciliation: we often think about the work of God in us making our relationship with him right. This would be true. However, let us also not forget God’s desire for us to be reconciled with one another. May God help us to live in right relationship with all of humanity.

Generosity: we may give of our resources and ourselves as freely as God has given to us.

Grace/Mercy: chaos often causes people to speak and act in ways that are out of character (or maybe in character). Can we be a place that allows others to express their hurt and confusion without needing to right the wrong done to us or settling the score?

Lament: “is to come alongside those who grieve, to sit with them in the silence and to recognize there that in God’s interconnected creation, their pain is our pain.”[5]

This is obviously not an exhaustive list. What would you add to it?

In a world looking for hope and full of fear, may the Church answer the call to be the non-anxious presence of Jesus in the world. May we move into the neighborhood and make the Kingdom of God known on earth as it is in heaven. This is our calling. We go to the broken places. We make our homes with the suffering. We enter into the chaos of life. If the church will do this, she will find God’s transforming work making all things new.[6]

[1] Philippians 2:6-7

[2] John 1:14

[3] David E. Fitch. Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 113.

[4] Richard B. Hays. The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. (San Francisco, CA: Harper), 337.

[5] C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison. Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 115.

[6] Revelation 21:5


Taken from Rev. Craig Shepperd’s website

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