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Everything That Rises Must Converge

Everything That Rises Must Converge is the name of a book of collected stories by distinguished 20th-century Southern writer Flannery O’Connor. Her vision of the kingdom of God is embedded in her stories. One in particular, "Revelation," ends with a vision of humanity in all of its magnificent diversity marching upwards into the heavens to greet the loving God who awaits with open arms.

That vision may capture something of the reality of the new thing that God is doing in our midst, raising us from the dead, lifting us upward into the grand call of Jesus Christ to all nations and people, the gospel offering life and salvation for all who trust in the promises of God and repent of their sins.

Some of us, however, on both sides of the line are playing the part of Elder Brother in the drama of the Prodigal Son. Some of us are saying, if people like that are going to be invited to God’s banquet, I will have none it. Some of us have no joy, only great burdens of suffering service in the cause of God in the world, busily proclaiming our own worthiness and faithfulness and the unworthiness and faithlessness of the Other.

Now the Father loves Elder Brother as much as Younger Brother, and whether Elder chooses to absent himself from God’s banquet is his choice. But it is not the Elder’s choice or responsibility to make the invitation list.

The church, which is, of course, not identical with God’s kingdom, is, Scripture tells us, always going to be a mixed body this side of Paradise: there will always be tares amidst the wheat. The temptation is to root the tares out now, but the risk is removing some of the good, even as the bad is removed.

On the other hand, the church is charged to maintain godly discipline, to seek the truth and to live the truth in love. Faithfulness involves loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourself, seeking to bring good news to the lost outside the church and admonishing sin in Christ’s church. On the other hand, we must not judge too quickly, nor too harshly, for who among us could withstand God’s righteous judgment?

Everything that rises — to God — must converge. The Presbyterian Church has historically opened the door to all who would enter professing faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The greatest challenge is not generosity toward the Other outside the church but being generous to those who have different views inside the church, and there are more than a few of these, on both sides of the line that divides.

Pray always for convergence, while living with the reality of human hardness of heart — even in the church of Jesus Christ.


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