One of the dynamics of the greater Los Angeles area is that there are a lot of cities packed tightly against one another. To give you an idea, for a while we lived 75 miles from my parents and our church, and drove from one city to the other each weekend. Down the 101 to the 134 to the 210, crossing your fingers that the 405 was clear enough not to mess with you.
Why, yes, SNL’s The Claifornians is right about how we talk about driving.
Driving those three freeways, I went through 15 cities. Each one has their own mayor, city hall, school district, soccer league and, most of all, sub-culture.
You would think that these cities would feel affinity with one another, being just miles apart. After all, the people who live in one place still eat out, go shopping, and have friends in the other places next door.
But what I’m finding, as I settle into a new town on this same stretch of freeway, is that some towns, especially the more homogenous and affluent ones, claim their space for their own to the exclusion of the towns, and more importantly the people in the towns around them. If you live in a rich town, and it is next door to a poor town, you are allowed to isolate yourself from those people. In the name of safety, morals, good influences and good schools, you create distance.
I am settling into ministry in the rich town. All my life, I have lived in rich towns. And I love the people in the rich towns, who, despite their outward appearances–manicured lawns and designer clothes–do not feel pulled together on the inside. And I am someone who feels compelled to be pulled together on the outside and often feels inadequate on the inside.
But somewhere along the way, living in these rich towns, someone, or perhaps many people, invited me to consider that “we” are not so different from “them.” And those people changed my whole life.
Father Greg Boyle puts it this way,
[There are experiences we share together] and, suddenly, there’s kinship so quickly. Not service provider and service recipient. No daylight to separate–just “us.”
Exactly what God had in mind.
Often we strike the high moral distance that separates “us” from “them,” and yet it is God’s dream come true when we recognize that there exists no daylight between us. Serving others is good. It’s a start. But it’s just the hallway that leads to the Grand Ballroom.
Kinships–not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.
On paper, my job is to help us serve them. In the reality of God’s kingdom, I am charged with taking away the daylight. What a privilege.