In Numbers 2, the tribes of Israel surround and face the Tent of Meeting, which is God's Tabernacle, protected by the Levites. Each tribe has a leader.
I thought about how
much better I'd feel if I focused on God rather than my resentments, my
problems, etc. Moreover, perhaps I'd be united with other Christians
more if my focus was on God. Then, my hurt feelings and jealousies
would not get in the way as much.
But are things that simple?
I think that there's a degree of truth to what I just said. At the
same time, I recall some of my problems with evangelicalism: feeling as
if I'm not adequate for certain tasks (i.e., witnessing, fellowship),
evangelical jerks who put me down for not believing or acting a certain
way (or simply because they're jerks), the suppression of individuality
for group-think, how people with "authority" abuse their power, etc. I
can't sweep that stuff under the rug like it doesn't exist.
we're to be united, shouldn't we define what our goals are? In the case
of Numbers 2, the Israelites were encamping for battle against the
Canaanites and any other enemies they'd meet along the way. The
Israelites had a clear goal. In my case, I have to ask myself to what
extent my goals overlap with those of evangelicalism, or Christianity in
general. Am I interested in witnessing, which is based on the
assumption that people would find inner peace were they to accept Jesus
Christ (a notion that I don't think is fool-proof)? Am I interested in
spiritual growth? Am I interested in serving the poor?
it depends on how you define those things. On witnessing, yes, I'd like
for the church to proclaim that God is a God of love. No, I don't feel
compelled to try to compel everyone I meet to become a Christian, for
people are on different pages spiritually and religiously. On spiritual
growth, yes, I'd like to hear constructive ways that I can be at peace
with myself and others, have more patience, and show others love. No, I
don't want to be beaten up for not being extroverted enough. On
helping the poor, yes, I should probably help the poor more than I do.
Thankfully, my church makes that possible by sponsoring a charity each
month. But maybe I'm not on the same page as every other Christian on
this, for there are Christians who think I should go without Internet
and use that money to help the poor, or that I should move to the
inner-city, or that giving money to charity is not good enough but I
should enter into deep relationships with the poor.
can find common ground with evangelicals, or Christians of whatever
stripe. But I may have to focus on the positive rather than the
negative, or make clear what I will stand for and what I won't----which
means, not that I'll tell others what they can or cannot do (as if I
can), but that I won't allow others to bully me. Perhaps the weakness
of my approach----or, rather, where my approach differs from what is in
Numbers 2----is that I don't defer to authority, for I make my own
choices about what works for me. But is there a way to respect people
as individuals with the right to make their own choices, and to
respect authority? Authority may not mean obeying someone no matter
what, but rather such things as respecting the order of an institution
and the importance of order in making things flow, not being a
troublemaker (unless there is a clear need to speak out), etc.