just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


One of the intriguing discussion points toward the end of last night's class was taken from the assigned reading of Takashi Yamada (a chapter in the book, Baptist Roots, see the side bar what I am reading). Yamada was a Japanese convert to Christianity through the work of Mennonite missions. During World War II, Yamada, a student in the Japanese Naval Academy, with his classmates was challenged to volunteer as a Kamikaze pilot--flying one desperate suicide flight to destroy an American naval vessel, by then on the attack. He refused the call--and survived the war. Later, while working for a trading company in Kobe, he was invited to attend a Mennonite mission Bible study. When the study progressed to Acts 2, Yamada and others in the class requested baptism and proposed starting a church; despite the missionaries' reluctance to move so fast, the church began. Yamada himself was baptized in 1952 and became a minister in 1956. He has taught at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, Elkhart, Indiana, has been a leader in world Mennonite activity, and serves as pastor of Kobayashi (Mennonite Church) Brotherhood.

That's some background. Now to the point of discussion that was drawn from our reading of his essay "Reconciliation in the Church." Yamada says in this chapter:

"Therefore we come to know that the living Christ is working as the creative Spirit who causes creative tensions in the fellowship, and stimulates the church to grow together. However, the living Christ is also the reconciling and healing Spirit working in the fellowship."

"Here and there in the New Testament we find amazing diversity, critical tensions caused by sharp contrasts and differences, and even some personal crushes in the Christian fellowship. But right there we see the living Christ of the church stimulating, reconciling and healing, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, in his church."

I am considering this idea that Yamada presents, that "the living Christ is working as the creative Spirit who causes creative tensions in the fellowship..." I'm not sure if I see the presence of tension and or/diverse perspectives in the fellowship as caused by the Spirit or by human elements/dynamics. I will have to think about this some more.

I raised the question if it is not rather, that the Spirit invites the members of the fellowship into honest, open conversation about differences and tensions. Is the role of the Spirit to shine the light on relational issues in light of the Gospel? Is not the role of the Spirit to bring about the unity in Christ that Jesus prayed for in John 17? I need to take a more careful look at Scripture to see how the Biblical text would support Yamada's idea.

Any responses?


  • At 1:39 PM , Anonymous dml said...

    I wonder if we could say that the Spirit caused the tension between Paul and Peter in the NT? Was not that conflict one clear step toward the Gospel going to the Gentiles?

    I think I tend to look at conflict/tension in the way you articulated, but maybe there is something to the idea that the Spirit prods us in different ways to accomplish God's plan. The other thought I had is that our gifts are from the HS too. I think that often our conflicts are related to our different giftings and ways we do approach or prefer to approach situations within life or the church. Perhaps it is a stretch to say that this is one way the HS creatively causes tensions????

    One more thought . . . despite my tendency to view conflict/tension as bad, I have learned that is not always the case. Conflict can be healthy and good when our awareness of needs and the perspective of others (or God) is lacking. So in that sense, Yamada is right. And, if we consider the analogy of a cut/wound on our skin to the tensions in the church, it is the abrasiveness of cotton or the rough edges of the cut which stimulate the production of platelets, the essential ingredient in clotting. The start of the healing/knittng together process is caused by roughness. I guess God can use all our rough edges in some way!

  • At 7:56 AM , Blogger Brian Miller said...

    Thanks again for your thoughtful reflections. They are very helpful and would actually parallel the more developed thesis of Yamada (H.S. gives diverse gifts that don't always flow together smoothly).

    I am inclined to believe that conflict is inevitable in human relationships. So it is inevitable in the fellowship. I guess I might say that rather than saying, "Where the Spirit of God is there is conflict." I would say that, "Where the Spirit of God is, there is a healthy, honest and creative engagement with the conflict." I do think that our diverse giftings can flow together only with the help of the Holy Spirit and the commitment that each of us brings to the process of walking together in the spirit of Christ--in reconciling love.

    I am more inclined to say that the Holy Spirit helps us deal creatively with conflict that arises for many reasons. Just because the Holy Spirit has given diverse gifts to the body, I don't believe that necessarily should result in conflict. It does, however, because we are not perfect. I am a sinner who has been saved, is being saved, and will be saved. So I am not perfect in many ways. I bring that imperfection to the body I am a part of at SMC (as I believe do all the other members). So we know that all that imperfection (sin) will produce tension and conflict. I believe Yamada is saying that if acknowledged openly, it is also an opportunity to be reconciled to each other through gracious, forgiving relationships. It is also an opportunity to grow and to be healed personally and communally as we face the points of tension. This will only happen, as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in bringing these tension points out into the open.


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