Isolated Islands We’re Not
By Ed Delph
September 6, 2021
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle awakes. It knows that it must run faster than the fastest cheetah, or it will be killed. Likewise, every morning a cheetah awakes. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. So it doesn't matter whether you are a cheetah or a gazelle - when the sun comes up, you better be running.
This intriguing snippet makes us aware of two worlds - the cheetahs and the gazelles. Both worlds are equally valid yet come from entirely different perspectives. These two worlds are not 'either/or' but 'both/and.' It would be unwise for the gazelle to live by a "my-world-is-the-only-world" philosophy. The gazelle who ignores the reality of the cheetah's world produces what the cheetah wants: Gazelle-burgers.
Someone might want to write a book entitled, Gazelles are from Venus; Cheetahs are from Mars, but the reality is both cheetahs and gazelles are from earth. So they had better learn to deal with it. Each must wake up running with awareness of the other's world. After all, their worlds do intersect.
Jesus presented more of a 'both/and' world than an 'either/or' world to us. Yes, there were absolutes, especially in what it takes to be a believer, but the absolutes were always in crucial areas and generally made clear. I'm not talking about a compromise of the absolutes. I'm talking about having a larger perspective that comes from having the mind of Christ.
There is a spiritual world, and there is a natural world. And both intersect. To ignore the reality of the Creator will affect the creation. Pretending there is no God, ignoring God, or dissing God, is like the gazelle who pretends there is no cheetah, ignores the cheetah, or disdains the cheetah. That could yield a bad ending for the gazelle and a fantastic meal for the cheetah.
Here's an example of the 'both/and' perspective. Jesus is called the Lion and the Lamb. Now there is a paradox for you. How can Jesus be strong and weak, ferocious and gentle, a fighter and a flee-er at the same time? Well, He is. Jesus could go from one extreme to another depending on what God told him was appropriate for the situation. Both the lamb and the lion are in God’s world.
God is multi-faceted; “I heard the voice of many waters.” (Revelation 1:15). God is Spirit (John 4:24). God is Light (I John 1:5). God is Love (I John 4:16). God is Elohim - Three in One, The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. Friends, that's a paradox. God's world and our world have seven continents, not just one. There are seven days in a week, seven colors in a rainbow, and seven notes in the musical scale. There were twelve tribes, not just one tribe, that made the nation of Israel. God created the world to reveal the genius of the 'both/and' mindset. God integrates seemingly opposite viewpoints that reveal the complexity and wonder of God.
Those who embrace an 'either/or' way of thinking or dualism struggle with this. Dualism views most everything adversarially: us/them, win/lose, right/wrong, either/or, “Me Tarzan, you Jane;” or in today’s world, “Me Jane, you Tarzan.” But that's not what the mind of Christ is all about.
Let me explain. Years ago, I rented a fifteen-person van to take our junior high children on a ministry trip. As we were traveling, I looked in the back seats and noticed all the junior-high kids had earphones on with their favorite CDs blasting in their ears. No one was talking. Each junior-higher was on the bus but listening to their favorite tunes with eyes glazed over and heads straight forward.
That incident reminds me of these current times. Just like those junior high kids, all of us are on a journey together, but polarized, listening to our tunes, themes, social causes, emphasis, etc. There's nothing wrong with a cause or issue if we understand that our 'thing' will never be everything. You may be correct, but you’re partially right, and you are out of balance. Other things and other themes around us affect what you want to do that you need to consider.
Let’s put our concept of the genius of the ‘both/and’ into current issues in our world.
Here are a few of the hundreds of examples in scripture from God's perspective of the 'both/and' concept. God created and loved both the Jew and the Gentile. (Romans 1:16); God loves both women and men (Galatians 3:28); God created the value of both young and old (Acts 2:17); God loves both the rich and poor (Ephesians 6:5-9); God gives us both grace and truth (John 1:14); God created both heaven and earth (1 Corinthians 15:40); God has appointed times for both the mortal and immortal. (1 Corinthians 15:53). God loves all races, not just one race. (Revelation 5:9).
These seemingly contradictory opposites viewpoints complement and complete one another. Opposites attract. If they are smart, they negotiate the differences. Think of it, our differences don't go away, but our hostilities can. The rough edge of another person may be the very tool that sharpens you. You can’t sink someone else’s end of the boat and keep your end afloat.
Let's rise from the scarcity of 'either/or' paradigm and ascend to the abundance of 'both/and' paradigm. The way is yours, take it.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com