God Bless the Whole World — No Exceptions

I started listening to NPR a few years ago because I had entered a season of needing to hear a different voice, of wanting to listen to viewpoints and encounter opinions that I did not share.  In these days of challenging conversations around politics and race, it’s important for me to remember that I am called to love, to trade my litmus tests for conversations with real people.  In navigating the deep divides within the church on everything from immigration and the role of women to worship style and the definition of family, more than ever the body of Christ must be the force that passes through our differences all the way to grace.  Deidra Riggs reminds me in ONE that Unity in a Divided World must be an intentional thing, something that we pray for and work toward.  Jesus modeled this focused attention in His prayer recorded in John’s Gospel:

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

This begs the question for this middle-aged, stodgy, and opinionated soul:  Can I love my neighbor “without being concerned about whether [my] neighbor is right?”  King Solomon and Parker J. Palmer invite me into a Third Way in which my soul hears well and is, therefore, enabled to choose the God-honoring, others-serving path that may go against the grain.

Ambassadors of Unity

Deidra traces the path of reconciliation that leads to oneness, urging readers:

  • to ask challenging questions about our motives for living toward the homogeneous and the “safe”;
  • to offer and to seek forgiveness;
  • to continually remind one another that we are one.

The Two Chairs

Whenever people come together, there are two chairs in the room.  One is the seat of justice, and the other is the seat of mercy.  “Only God has the credentials to sit in both of those seats and perfectly administer both justice and mercy,” (64) and while we may crave justice, it is critical to recall that God “does not ignore our broken hearts” when He invites us to sit in the seat of mercy and to view life from the perspective of someone who has wronged us.  (75)

When Jesus prayed for his followers (present and future), He would not have been blindsided by the fact that an outcome of His magnificent creativity would be uniqueness — manifested in differences of opinions.  It would be alarming if we all walked in lockstep on every issue.

“Oneness is not about conforming.
Oneness is about transforming.”  (97)

The oneness that Jesus prayed for us is bigger than our position on an issue or our political affiliation.  The challenge is to love well — especially if disagreements make love an unlikely thing, for then the radical love of God is put on display.

Going to Ferguson

Because her heart was broken, and because she needed to see the fallout from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Deidra boarded a plane and spent three days in the sweltering heat, living in the midst of the tragedy and joining in the lament.  Two years later, when Alton Sterling was killed, she used the internet as a virtual gathering place in which the “Prayers of the People” became an invitation to come together around shared grief.  Looking squarely at tragedy, acknowledging together that we live in the space between what is and what will be can be the starting place for God-initiated transformation leading to oneness in heart and in mind.

Spiritual Integrity

Like Deidra, I am the bologna in a generational sandwich.  Mine comprises an elderly mother on one side, and on the other, a range of adult and teen sons.  Add to this a quest for a vibrant marriage, ministry, blogging, and the occasional cup of tea with a friend, and the tendency is to fragment, bringing only part of the self to each aspect of life. Unity in a divided world requires personal and internal oneness which brings a screeching halt to the sacred/secular dichotomy and nullifies the “requirement” that I be all things to all people.  Only Jesus can do that, and it turns out that His prayer in John 17 is a prayer for integrity, a heart’s cry from the Son to the Father against the “massive fault line that runs through the center of my soul.” (156)

The unity that Jesus prayed for among those who believingly follow Him is a product of the “oneness within each follower.” (157)  Spiritual integrity de-emphasizes lines of division, assuring our hearts that all of life is sacred.  We care for and respect our one-and-only heart through radical practices of grace, going home to our roots for restoration, and recalibrating our perspective through regular observance of Sabbath (which Eugene Peterson defines this way:  “Take nothing for granted.  And do it every week.”)

Gathered under God’s loving wings, may we look around us at all those within His vast circumference and find, to our great surprise, that this is what it means to be One; that this shared protection and provision is proof that God loves the whole world and delights in each one of us — no exceptions.

//

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

33 thoughts on “God Bless the Whole World — No Exceptions”

  1. Woah…. This is deep and touches on a lot of ideas I’ve been pondering myself. I might just have to check this book out! And link this in my upcoming series on Moving Toward the Mess. Thanks for always bringing these great books to our attention! Blessings!

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    1. I love how Deidra is able to address controversy in a non-confrontational, grace-soaked manner. She does not skirt the hard discussions, but I do not come away feeling beat up when I read Deidra.

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  2. “’Only God has the credentials to sit in both of those seats and perfectly administer both justice and mercy,’ (64) and while we may crave justice, it is critical to recall that God ‘does not ignore our broken hearts’ when He invites us to sit in the seat of mercy and to view life from the perspective of someone who has wronged us.” Thank you, Michelle for these challenging thoughts.

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  3. For God’s love to flow through me to everyone is my heart’s desire. I think we can do this while still not compromising truth, which is what Jesus did, right?

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  4. Thank you for sharing another thorough and informative book review. You are such a blessing to the authors you share about, and to us, your readers, for learning about good books.

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  5. “I am called to love, to trade my litmus tests for conversations with real people.” This is so good Michelle. I too am middle-aged, stodgy, and opinionated at times. Don’t we sometimes think we are wizened enough to know it all? Haha! It can be hard to have real conversations with those who think differently than we do because we take the beliefs of others so personally.

    Lord, help me to listen with your ears of love. Truth and Love. I need that balance.

    Thank you Michelle.

    Patti

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love your thoughts on oneness! Just because we have different opinions, doesn’t mean we can’t have unity. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Great review, Michele. 🙂 Striving for oneness, whether in marriage or within the body of Christ is no easy task. We always need to be reminded to seek it. Thank you for linking up at Literacy Musing Mondays.

    On another note: I noticed you review for BookLookBloggers. My application was accepted a couple of weeks ago, but when I login to request my first book, I get a notice that says I can’t request a book until I submit a review for the last book. This is my first time to request a book – is there something I’m doing wrong? I’ve emailed for help twice, and no one is responding to me. I want to get started!! Anyway, didn’t know if you could shed some light on my problem.

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  8. Lovely Michele! Thank you for such wise words. I’m glad to see that you party with use at the Over the Moon Link Party. I invite your readers to visit weekly from Sunday evening through Thursday evening. God bless!

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  9. “’Oneness is not about conforming. Oneness is about transforming.’ The challenge is to love well.” I love this. It’s actually something we are having issues with some of our fellow church members about. Their idea of unity is conforming and they judge those who will not. (I happen to be one of those 🙂 ) This is where love and grace go hand-in-hand! Even if they are right about the convictions, they should still be able to recognize that different people are at different levels of their walk with God.
    I’m not sure where you were going with the “requirement” to be all things to all people, which is an actual Biblical concept in 1 Corinthians 9:22 and 10:33. I understand God is not telling us to be manipulative or dishonest, but I don’t quite see where that came into play here. Maybe because these verses apply to trying to lead others to Christ and aren’t referring to other believers? I don’t know…was kinda lost there….
    Altogether it sounds like a compelling book!

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    1. You made a great point, Liz. The “be all things to all people” that I was referring to from the book was not referring to the Biblical mandate to represent Christ well to all kinds of people, but rather the unbiblical requirement to fit into a mold. Sounds as if you have some experience with that unfortunate dynamic. I’m reading Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection right now, and he has so many helpful thoughts from Ephesians about doing church as Jesus intended. So glad to be reading it on the heels of Deidra’s helpful book. He focuses on growing up in Christ, deepening in our relationship and dependence upon Him, and asserts that this is best accomplished in the context of the body. So good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You always have such great finds 🙂 It sounds horrible, but I get so little reading time that when I can read I want pure fictional entertainment 😀 Someday soon when things slow down (ahem) I will read more of these books and your site will be my first stop for some good recommendations!

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  10. I love your reasons for beginning to listen to NPR. Would that we all made an effort to practice hearing differing viewpoints well! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week! Always a pleasure having you!
    Tina

    Liked by 1 person

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