Three weeks ago, I was grabbing my second cup of coffee before preaching the Sunday service at Destiny Church in Cluj Napoca, the second largest city in Romania. The Destiny community is one of Bridgeway’s ministry partners in Eastern Europe, and many of her members are living in the city of Cluj after fleeing their homes in the Kherson region of Ukraine.
As I waited for my turn at the coffee carafe, a voice called out in my direction — “мій брат!” The voice belonged to Pastor Sergey, the senior pastor of Destiny. Since I speak very little Ukrainian, I didn’t understand what he said (and I am sure my dazed and confused expression gave it away!). He spoke again, in English: “My brother… In Ukrainian we say, мій брат (miy brat). It is good to see you this morning, мій брат.”
As Pastor Sergey came close and embraced me with a hug, I experienced the beauty of the Body of Christ. Our team is thousands of miles away from home, worshiping and building relationships with a group of Ukrainian church leaders who are also far from their homes, living as refugees in a foreign country whose language they do not speak.
And yet, with joy, we discover that even in this new place, we have family. In the community of Jesus, we who would be strangers — distanced by differences in language, culture, and geography — are moved to embrace one another with the intimate language of kinship: мій брат! (“My brother!”)
We are living in a global moment when the divides between peoples are growing ever deeper, even as the lines of color, class, culture, and kin are becoming more deeply entrenched. It feels like the whole world is at war while hate crimes and acts of mass violence are rising at home in the US. On top of this unrest, we are about to move into a presidential election year!
Sadly, even the holy church of Jesus is not immune from these cancerous divisions. In fact, with tears, we could say that the church often puts them on full display as we “bite and devour each other” before a watching world (Gal 5:15). Yet, the backdrop of these divisions makes Pastor Sergey’s brotherly embrace even more profound and prophetic.
What is it about the gospel of Jesus that makes such a desire for embrace possible?
In 1 Corinthians 12 (the passage where Dr. Anderson first encountered the principles of “gracism”), the Apostle Paul describes the unity and diversity of the church in an embodied way. This is because at the center of our faith is the body of Jesus of Nazareth, “God with us” (Matt 1:23). No distance, no division, no boundary is so deeply entrenched that it can possibly overcome the God of love that knows no bounds. Even the division between “friend” and “enemy” was not strong enough to hold back the embrace of God in Jesus, who embraced us “while we were God’s enemies” by giving his life for us on the Cross (Rom 5:10). Even now, through the local and global church, Jesus continues to offer his Body as a home for all people – even when they find themselves thousands of miles from their native land!
While the left hand and the right hand might “live” on opposite ends of the Body, they remain united and bound together: the same blood flows to them, through them, and for them. And when they do come together and embrace, clasped in prayer, a force of love and unity is unleashed through them that blesses the world.
In these times of despair and division, will we dare to discover the beauty of God’s Body, the church? Will we dare to come together – uniting across the lines of color, class, culture, and nation, bearing witness to the God whose healing love knows no bounds?
Let’s invite our neighbors to COME HOME by being the Beloved Community their hearts long for.
To discover the beauty of the Body at a global level, I’d encourage you to subscribe to Bridgeway’s “Missions Monthly Update,” sharing stories on what God is doing all over the world through ministry partners like Pastor Sergey & his wife, Pastor Helen.
To discover the Beauty of the Body at a local level, sign up to be part of or lead a Life Group here at Bridgeway. One of our values as a church is “Growth through Groups.” Grow in your faith by sharing life with an intimate, diverse community centered on the presence of Jesus.
If you’re between the ages of 18-28, apply to be part of the Gracism Academy Class of 2024! The Academy is a community of diverse young adults growing in their capacity to build bridges across the social divides of color, class, and culture.
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