I have a dream …
Like the dream of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is a dream about reconciliation. It is a dream about two groups of people divided by history and culture and prejudice learning to live together, to respect each other, to recognize the strength and beauty in each other, to work alongside each other to make the world new.
I dream of reconciliation between “progressive” Christians and “evangelical” Christians. I use these particular terms because they are the terms the two groups use to identify themselves. I put the terms in quotes, however, because the words may not be the most apt descriptors for the two groups. “Progressive” Christians may well be evangelical in the sense that they bear a message of good news into a hurting world. And “evangelical” Christians are certainly progressive in that they seek not just to preserve the status quo, but to transform it.
Why do I dream of reconciliation? Because the antagonism and mistrust of each group for the other cripples their witness and defames the name and the way of Jesus! And Jesus is what they have in common. They are “progressive” Christians … “evangelical” Christians. The key to reconciliation must be found in what they do have in common: Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ who prayed that his followers be one.
It may seem preposterous to think these two groups have anything at all in common. Their values and principles and practices are so much at odds that surely one must be mostly right and the other mostly wrong. Or both groups may be mostly wrong. Now, I believe, we are getting closer to the truth! Both “progressive” Christians and “evangelical” Christians need a healthy dose of the cardinal Christian virtue — humility.
“Progressive” Christians need to realize, need to BELIEVE, that they need Jesus; it is not Jesus that needs them. They need to learn from Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet, to be content with saying nothing, doing nothing, coming empty-handed to Jesus to listen, to be healed, to be given gifts of light and life. They need to work hard, yes, but know that the future rests in God’s hands, that at every moment they live in and by and for the grace of God.
“Evangelical” Christians need to realize, need to BELIEVE, that Jesus does not need them to defend him or to speak for him. Jesus can that just fine on his own, thank you! Instead of telling everyone else what Jesus wants them to do, they need to listen to Jesus themselves … and obey. Not listen to the “Jesus’ jargon,” the packaged “gospel” all done up neat and tight, but listen to the real Jesus. Read the gospel record and listen! And then … follow.
I have a dream … that all of those, all of us, who desire nothing more than to follow Jesus faithfully, will need no other title than Christian. That word will say enough. And that word, that name, will be one that brings us together and leads us into the world with news that is truly good!