(A rare Saturday post to participate in the Rally to Restore Unity being hosted by Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town. When I first heard about this from other bloggers I follow, I thought "hey, that's cool" but didn't go check it out. I finally did take a look yesterday, and wow! There's a lot to digest there, but it's all worth reading. I don't agree with everyone, but that's kidna the point. On with the show...)
When I was converted in a campus ministry I left behind the traditional, religious experience of most of my life. It was hard. Harder, was knowing that there were good friends of mine who I knew sincerely loved God and Jesus but, in my new found convictions, were way off-base. I felt like Paul lamenting over his people:
"I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." (Romans 9:2-5)
Then I read Jesus prayer in John 17 and this became my new prayer: "God, I pray for all who believe in you through your Son, that we may all be one just as You and He are one, so that the whole world may believe." (v 20-23) Well God answers prayers in funny ways.
Not long after I started praying this prayer I started to see fliers around campus reading "Do you agree with Rachel?". The next day, the same question written in sidewalk chalk. And this continued for week or so before the signs were updated with a date, the next Saturday. The next phase of this viral campaign (before there even was such a thing!) was t-shirts that others started wearing around campus. But the message again changed. On the front the t-shirt read "Do you agree with Rachel?" and on the back it read "Rachel believes in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for your sins and rose again three days later." No denominations. No direct tie to any campus ministry (though one of the more prominent ones was behind it). Unity under one message: the Gospel of Jesus.
At the time there was a lot of competition between different campus ministries for numbers and reputation. One group would tell incoming freshmen not to go to another group. The larger groups would intentionally schedule devos and events on top of smaller groups to take away their membership. And gossip, lots of gossip (you wouldn't believe what what's her name got away with in that group!). Rachel simply wanted it to stop.
I met Rachel before anyone knew who she was, or what we were even agreeing with. My small group co-leader and I had a nice conversation with her one day at the food court. Here was a girl that I could tell struggled under the weight of Jesus' prayer in John 17. Who loved Jesus so much she was willing to risk her reputation for him. Who was grateful to meet other believers who felt the same way she did. Of course I didn't know she was behind the campaign. It never even occurred to me to put two and two together (her name was Rachel, duh!). But I walked away from that conversation thinking, "there's someone who gets it" while at the same time hoping she'd come and check out my campus ministry because it was obviously better than all the others.
Of course when word got out who Rachel was and what her message was going to be there was significant backlash on this liberal campus. Jesus was mocked. Teachers who wore her shirt were suspended (separation of Church and State and all that), and she was openly persecuted.
When I found out who Rachel was I smiled and thanked God for answering my prayer. Then I skipped her rally because my church had something else going on that was more important.
Maybe I didn't agree with her after all.