It’s time for the junior high dance. The whole school gathers in the gymnasium. The music begins to play. The boys line up on one side of the gym, single file, sheepishly staring at their shoes and mumbling to one another.
The girls are gathered on the other side of the gym in small huddles, giggling and glancing, asking “Is he looking at me?” But the boys aren’t looking at them. They’re looking at their shoes. The gym is segregated and no one will walk across the room. It’s as if there is an invisible barrier, an electric fence. And anyone who crosses the center line will be shocked. And so the music plays, but no one dares to walk across the room.
Bill Hybels wrote a book a few years back titled Just Walk Across the Room. I’ve actually never read the book, but the analogy is compelling. In a world of immense division, it's incredibly difficult to walk across the room – to cross barriers and boundaries in order to engage those on the other side.
January 6th is the Christian festival of Epiphany. One way to look at this festival is to say that God walked across the room. Inspired by the story of foreign astrologers called Magi, we celebrate the fact that God’s salvation isn’t limited to one people group.
Christ is not only for the Jews.
Christianity is not uniquely American or Western.
The light is universal, for all the nations.
It’s interesting to note that Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian festivals. Historically, the Church began celebrating Epiphany before they started celebrating Christmas. The church (in the West at least) designated January 6th as Epiphany before they designated Dec. 25th as Christmas. It was significant to them that Jesus was made manifest to the Gentiles.
Christ came to cross all boundaries and barriers.
As Christ has come to us, so we are to walk across the room for others. But crossing boundaries and barriers is extremely difficult. It’s hard to walk across the room and shake hands with someone you don’t know. To risk rejection. To make yourself vulnerable and uncomfortable. We prefer like-minded friends with the same worldview and the same background. We gravitate toward people like us.
How do you walk across a room? Quite simply, you take a step. One step to someone different than you. One step to someone God has sent you to. This person might be right in front of you. Maybe you’ve known them for a long time, and 2015 is the year you take the step to help them, care for them, and share your faith with them. You need to know who they are, and they need to know who you are.
Walking across the room requires at least three things:
Security - We are secure in who we are. Our identity is in Christ. When you know who you are, you don’t have to be defensive, threatened, or worried (which is a posture all too common for Christians).
Humility – We put others above ourselves. We don’t criticize or belittle those who are different or believe differently than we do. We serve them. We take great interest in who they are.
Bravery – When we take a step across the room, we don’t do it alone. We trust that God is leading us. That he’s actually do things through us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it.” So we bravely take a step.
When God came to us, we sat behind enemy lines of arrogance and selfishness. But Jesus walked across the room. When you were huddling in the corner on the far side. Alone. Incapable of moving. He walked across the room when you didn’t know him. He extended his hand. It had scars on it, marks of sacrifice. When you had no acquaintances, Jesus called you “friend.” When you had no family, he called you sister, called you brother.
This year, we take another step in his Name because he has crossed all boundaries and barriers for us.