Jean’s Gospel: A Better Melting Pot
Depending on your background, particularly whether or not you’re a minority in any major category of individual identity (such as religion, race or ethnicity), the idea of a “melting pot” – of being assimilated into a pre-eminent and pre-existing cultural identity – may be something you heartily desire or something you find repugnant. The latter group may view the image of a “salad bowl” or even separation more agreeable.
My first experience of a melting pot was in the U.S. Air Force. I remember marveling at how effective the Air Force was at assimilating a very diverse group of young men into a cohesive unit of airmen. Entering Basic Training, we were as different a collection of young men as I could have imagined who in our prior civilian lives shared little in common and ran in very different social, geographic and economic circles. But by the time of our graduation, the survivors had been successfully assimilated into the Air Force and, as a result, we viewed each other as comrades.
Christ’s Melting Pot
Most people never experience the military melting pot. In the civilian realm, the concept of a “melting pot” appears out of vogue. Many people today identify themselves more by their personal feelings and close relationships, rather than by group identities fostered by participation or membership in large institutions. Therefore, unless and until a major cultural shift occurs, don’t expect America to function as a melting pot via military or civilian institutions.
However, there remains a melting pot far greater than anything man could create. The melting pot that I am staking my future on is the one that Jesus Christ created for us. Jesus alluded to it in John’s Gospel: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (10:16)
Jesus forged His melting pot out of His own flesh and blood, which He sacrificed on a cross for our sins to reconcile us to God. “[I]n Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19). This reconciliation becomes ours personally through faith in Christ. It is our entry point into Christ’s melting pot, which I am using as a metaphor for His new eternal family. In Christ’s family the pre-eminent identity is not a set of principles or founding documents, but Christ himself. In Christ’s family we are not conservative or liberal, male or female, gay or straight, citizen or illegal; “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)
Christ’s melting pot is strange because all the folks in it endeavoring to be like Him formerly rejected and crucified Him. Therefore, God has to draw us to Christ. (John 6:44) Another unique aspect is that there are no background checks or entrance exams to get into Christ’s melting pot. Oh, wait, I’m wrong about the entrance exam. There is an entrance exam, but I failed it miserably and I sincerely hope you fail too. Christ only admits failures. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17b)
Where is Christ’s Melting Pot?
Here on earth, Christ has assembled his family into one Holy Christian Church. When I capitalize the “C” in Church, I am referring to a fellowship that all Christians enjoy on the basis of their faith in Christ, regardless of small “c” church affiliation. Regardless of your church affiliation, if you are a Christian, you are a member of His body the Church.
In many churches today, especially liturgical churches, you will even find a tangible representation of Christ’s melting pot – which is called the Baptismal Font. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27) Baptism is both a sign and a summary of Christian life in Christ’s melting pot.
The Church as a Melting Pot?
Unlike military or civilian melting pots, which are focused on assimilating people into shared principles, mission and values, the focus of the Church is on the person of Christ, our Redeemer – in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Col 2:9) Through His gifts, Christ conforms us to His image (Rom 8:29). As we begin to reflect the mind of Christ (Rom 12:2; Phil 2:5), we begin to recognize each other as family.
How Does Christ Melt Us to Himself and to One Another?
Christ forms us through His Word. When Christ’s words of Law and Gospel are proclaimed by the Church, seeds of faith are sown into the hearts of the congregation, and the weeds of our sin are rooted out. Even among Christians, if sin is not addressed regularly through the proclamation of Law and Gospel, sin becomes like weeds in the heart that grow up among the good seedlings (of faith). If left unaddressed for too long, the weeds threaten to choke off the good seedlings. But hearing God’s Word renews and strengthens our faith and helps us to see ourselves and the world around us through the eyes of faith.
By hearing from Christ in preaching, teaching and in the liturgy, the sheep learn the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow Him. (John 10:1-18) Christians must listen to Christ, so we recognize His voice and can distinguish it from other voices (often evil) which compete for our attention and allegiance.
In His Word, Christ gives us the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-16)
Jesus gave us His prayer: “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven….’” (Matt 6:9-13) Jesus wants us to pray not only for ourselves but for each other. “Our Father” means we share the same God, the same salvation, as family. When I ask for my daily bread, I ask our Father that you be fed as well. When I ask that my sins be forgiven, I am also interceding with our Father for the forgiveness of your sins.
Jesus also gave us a tangible Word. Through the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives us Himself and the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:26-28) – in, with and under bread and wine. This holy meal also is a communion of believers: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor 10:17)
We are living in a time of anxiety, but also of great opportunity in which Christians, living out our individual vocations, can be good leaven which benefits the whole lump of our society. Our society needs good leaven. I have described the place of our preparation as Christ’s melting pot. This is not a ‘to do’ list; we are not the cooks. Christ will prepare each of us through His gifts and service to us – in His melting pot.
Lord, preserve us in Your Word now and forever. Amen.
Come on, man. Give me something to argue with 🙂
Good job, well written.
Thank you Josh! Something must be working.
Amen, Jean, amen. A lovely read this morning. Preach on.
“Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”
Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.”
– Emo Philips
I have a visceral reaction to this post.
While this is not exactly what Jean’s article is about (I’m not really missing the point), a few Sundays ago I was looking around our some (50-ish) congregation and took note of the diversity of nationalities present that morning. We had people from:
and the US of A
“I have a visceral reaction to this post.”
Would love to receive it.
I forgot Egypt.
When I capitalize the “C” in Church, I am referring to a fellowship that all Christians enjoy on the basis of their faith in Christ, regardless of small “c” church affiliation. <<<<
I do the exact opposite. When I use a capital "C" I am always referring to the Orthodox Church. I've been doing this for years. I wonder if anyone ever noticed.
That is a rich congregation.
Oh, and the potlucks must be amazing! 🙂
” Most people never experience the military melting pot.” this is sad, i think every adult, able bodied young male should give 2 years to his country – even tho we hear reports of gangs within the corps, what Jean points out is the majority experience, i think
“Our Father” – instruction given before the Church was even anticipated … i wonder how many pray this prayer and their prayer never gets beyond their ceiling because of the fence that their mind has drawn around that plural pronoun…
“Christians must listen to Christ” ears to hear is key – is it not the Holy Spirit that instructs, that brings this Christ into our being? as is often pointed out here on Michael’s blog site, this is most definitely, sooner or later, a work on our hearts, not simply an intellectual edification to be compartmentalized Philippians 2:13
… my daughter sent me a link to the City Council meeting in her hometown last night, a man had been fired by the Council for, basically profiting off of his position of power, underhanded stealing from city for years… he was a church member and they turned out in tears to protest how this good man had done nothing wrong – ever – and was being railroaded … too many going to church are too pleased with themselves and their puny little token good deeds as they lie, cheat and steal and bless God for blessing them so
we need ears to hear and we need teachers such as show up here on this blog
now i’m done – again
Melting isn’t such a good thing if you are green-skinned and come from the north: “I’m melting!”
– sorry, I couldn’t resist the Oz reference 🙂
Now, forget my silliness and return to the serious post by Jean.
It’s comforting to see you commenting today. Many of us missed your participation the last couple days. Your comments are always valuable. Thank you.
#5 – hope to hear BD’s reaction…
forgive me, but this i have to share… last night we were watching a Stephen Hawking presentation on Einstein’s theory … seems the further from earth’s core (gravitational pull) you get the slower time moves over the same span … couldn’t help but think of Isaiah 55:9 and 2 Peter 3:8
i’m hear to say that science eventually proves the Bible 🙂 teachers, we need teachers
thank you, Jean … i am enjoying your journey with the Lord as you add to Michael’s blog
taking care of my personal business right now and my limited concentration makes for shallow comments – as may have been noticed before 🙂
so, mostly, trying to stay out of the way here
Encouraging post. Thanks
This article further illustrates Xenia’s example very well I think, of Eastern Orthodoxy’s unique melting pot qualities. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/15/the-brotherhood-of-moses-the-black.html
Jean thanks for a very good article….
You’re welcome Dude!
Our church is in a melting pot county in a melting pot state and it is with great joy that we too can look around our congregation and see those diverse ethnic demographics represented each Sunday.
I have no disagreement with this article, but I will add one thing to it from James that I think is missing for it to be complete: “21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” Hearing is a required first step, but then we have to choose to do something with it. That requires meditation upon what we heard as the Holy Spirit helps us to see how, practically, it can be applied to our lifestyle. Then we are conformed a little more.
I look at the melting pot as a kingdom of heaven thing – that God has called all to himself and that the melting pot is the “in Christ”.
I like the version that is all gospel as opposed to Mr. J’s law version (which is usually the majority version). Jesus makes the melting pot in Matt 20 as the story is about bringing the gentiles into what was thought to be an exclusive Jewish order.
““For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.”
As you read the story, it is God at work wandering the countryside (no one coming to him to make application) to fill his kingdom – no resume necessary – no nationality – nothing – you just need to be on the outside. It is notable that the only question God asks is why aren’t you in my kingdom and their reply is always because no one asked us in. The master of the house has only one reply – go in.
The melting comes in that we have all entered the same place at the invitation of the same master. Even if your church is all white or all black or all (fill in the blank) it is a melting pot of new creations.
Good article Jean.
Your comments are always welcome. One of the most difficult things about writing, is trying to do justice to a topic in around 1,200 words. There’s usually something I might have added or elaborated on.
Regarding your proposed amendment, one of the central topics of the Reformation was the source of Sanctification. I have a high view of the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word to renew me in spirit and mind. He promises us the fruit of the Spirit. I, personally, will hold Him to His promise.
I notice a “melting pot” of every age, religion, ethnicity and level of wealth every time I go to an oncology appointment with my mom.
Cancer…the great equalizer.
Good point London. We’re all fallen Adam at the most basic level. We have the divine imputation of Christ’s righteousness, but we mostly experience that through the eyes of faith. Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.
I’m not sure about all the christian exce, but cancer has a way to make everyone, patients and families, realize no one is better than anyone else. Everyone is scared, everyone is vulnerable and everyone dies.
Actually, life itself has a way of doing the same – Everyone is scared, everyone is vulnerable and everyone dies – even the big guys / gals, they just know how to fake it better.
amen to # 24 … but that said, inserting the “Christianese” here – we are much more than flesh … 1 Peter 1:24
I wonder how we meld in the O.T. event that resulted from the Tower of Babel with today’s move toward a one world, melting pot (that was before the flood wasn’t it?)
i’m not against the melting pot principle (my soon to be born 1st great grandchild will be African American, German, Japanese, Scotch Irish, Irish, Swedish, Native American (both sides of the border) and French – i think that covers it)
#28 – psychologists call it denial, i think – we are all very good at it
which reminds me that your constant reminder of how we are all filthy, rotten to our core sinners may be very hard on some 🙂 Jean said, ” I have a high view of the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word to renew me in spirit and mind. He promises us the fruit of the Spirit. I, personally, will hold Him to His promise.” … me, too
like the old song says, “without Him, how lost i would be”
London, you and your mom stay in my prayers…
and @29, i left Welch (some think that grandfather was a secret Jew – dunno) out of my great-grandson’s heritage
God keep all close
Jean, I can appreciate the limitations of a 1,200 word essay. That is why I added something, for as far as I understand, the point of posting these here is to get comments back. I too appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word. That is one reason why I meditate on what it means to follow the teachings of Jesus. I cannot take credit for His work, but I can choose to cooperate with the process. Life goes better for me when I do.
Amen Mr. J.
“which reminds me that your constant reminder of how we are all filthy, rotten to our core sinners may be very hard on some”
I hope you don’t think that is my view. Even as I said above in my #22 we are worthy of direct entry into the kingdom – nothing required on our part even though we are sinners, in God’s eyes we are perfect because of Jesus… even before we enter, even before he calls.
#34 – amen, MLD – exactly – “nothing required on our part even though we are sinners, in God’s eyes we are perfect because of Jesus” … amen loudly to the rafters
FWIW – i do think, that in your desire to make it clear that no good thing that we can do adds to our position in Christ, it does sound as if you’re saying, so, Christian, just live with your no good self
Em, I am.
My post, was very specific to the experience I have every time I go to the Cancer Center.
#36 – MLD, then are you addressing the problem of self righteousness? okay, but
there is nothing in scripture that would advocate wallowing hopelessly in the old sin nature – we are not only forgiven, we are subject to edification and thus improvement in our behavior – i said improvement, as in i didn’t kill my daughter’s cat yesterday when it jumped up on the counter and licked the butter on my english muffin – i didn’t even hurt it 🙂 i wanted to …
Great article Jean, very encouraging. Glad to see that you are part of the PP team.
Em, you said I sounded as if I was saying “Christian, just live with your no good self.”
This is exactly what we do – we just live with our no good self.
If someone objects, I ask “well, if you do not think you should ‘just live with your no good self’ why do you keep sinning?” STOP IT!!!
My behavior and my actions have nothing to do with who my sinful self is. Your nice story with the cat, so are you now a less sinful self?
I do disagree with MLD in that regard. I think we are to put to death the no good self, daily.
MLD, we are talking two different things here – my sinful self is a state of affairs that will last until my body dies – you are, i think, addressing that fact… but
the process in progress now is, or should be, a weaning off of catering to my old nature –
an event in that process may be a sinful one: anger = smack the cat hard, sending him flying off of the counter = sin = “God forgive me (He does) or
anger and sin not = “Oh Axel! Bad cat, get off that counter!” … IMV, it’s okay to use a tone of voice that says to the animal “Get off the counter and get out of here before i kill you!” the cat doesn’t have to know that you really won’t do so. However…,
using that tone of voice with a child would = sin = asking God and the child for forgiveness
the dog got the butter soaked english muffin, BTW – i don’t knowingly eat what the cat has gotten to – oh, and i hoped the cat noticed the dog got it… that was probably attitude sin
the process is called growing in Christ … although my simple-minded example might also apply to just growing up,period
Josh – how’s that working for you? If you “put it to death” yesterday, why is it back today?
Probably the biggest change I made in making the jump to the dark side of Christianity 😉 was to learn the doctrine of confession and absolution … which is non existent in the evangelical world. Not only why I need to confess my sin but I also need to hear God’s absolution in my ear.
Hey, this is part of the melting pot process in the kingdom of heaven – good fondue doesn’t just happen.
Perhaps that IS the melting pot – God wants us to clean up our act so that we all live like a bunch of Mormon families. 😉
See, Mormons can live as the ideal American family, not a hair out of place and it has not affected their sinful self one bit.
I on the other hand can change my lifestyle to out do the good Mormon lifestyle and it will not change my old sinful self one bit.
If God has changed my behavior at all, it’s not for the sake of lifestyle – it is for being able to better serve my neighbor.
I’m not there yet, and I will never be “there” on this side of eternity. I am thankful that God loves me as I am, not as I should be, but, He has worked on me daily. He has disciplined me gently. Sin in my life that I didn’t even notice 20 years ago, now disgusts me. Breaks my heart. It is a slow process, and I will never be anywhere close to not falling short of the glory of God, but yes, God is changing me daily.
Josh – you would make a great Lutheran. “Sanctification” for me has only shown me how much worse of a sinner I am than I thought I was. “Sanctification” has not made me better, it has just made me more aware and has allowed me a proper outlet to handle this sin – through confession and the absolution.
But I still just live daily with my old stinking sinful self.
“Sin in my life that I didn’t even notice 20 years ago, now disgusts me.”
That, my friends, is called tenderizing the conscience. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
MLD’s point about confession and absolution is to maintain a clear conscience before God and man as our conscience becomes more tender. Otherwise, we would live in despair of our sinful condition, which would grow worse over time as the our conscience becomes more tender.
IT’s probably just another difference in terminology, but no in practice.
When you say you “live with your old stinkin self”, we are inferring that you are satisfied, or content with your old stinking self. If that is not what you are saying, then I think we are all in agreement.
I give very little thought to my state of sin – the holy spirit is to make any changes I need – my job is to confess and receive the absolution to make way that I can go out and serve my neighbor.
Is it possible to sin greatly even while out doing the work of God? I will not let my introspection of my sin slow me down in God’s work.
Well, we are in the same boat, except sometimes I am discouraged that “do the things I hate and hate the things I do”.
Daily, I put to death my sinful flesh by confessing my sins to the High Priest, the one mediator between God an man. If I am faithful to confess them, He is faithful to forgive them.
Seems to me Luther is closer to “JTB” here than your resident professional Lutheran.
We’re not potted plants. We have a choice whether to daily show contrition and repetance.
From Luther’s Small Catechism
What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.
It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?–Answer.
St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
“We’re not potted plants. We have a choice whether to daily show contrition and repetance.”
Hmm, I thought I was the one speaking the confession and absolution talk here. But nowhere does it say we shed anything from our sinful self.
I also said that it is the Holy Spirit that makes changes in me – not me myself. I say this is done through this very same daily baptism you are pointing to. Are you agreeing that baptism is efficacious to do what it says it will do? I DO. 🙂