Moving Toward or Away from Jesus?
Our Franklin Pierce Schools have some of the most resilient students I have ever known.
This past Monday, Kristi Kellogg and I helped interview dozens of FPHS students who applied to graduate in June with "distinction." Many of them are first-generation high school graduates. Several students I had the honor of getting to know through the process will be first-generation college students, too. Several students were immigrants. And each faced obstacles many of us could never imagine experiencing in high school.
That is all I will say about the students because someday, I would love them to share their stories with you - face to face. But they are their stories to share… not mine.
These students love God, love people, and live like Jesus, where they live, work, learn, and play whether they know it or not.
How can that be?
Ready for some math and science?
Paul Hiebert was a professor at Fuller Seminary in Southern California. He's with Jesus now, but he helped people like me think about people around me differently when he was alive.
He explains that there are centered and bounded sets in "Set Theory" (people in math and science understand what I'm talking about). And while that's true for data, it's also helpful to understand relationships among people in this framework.
Bounded (or fixed) sets have a firm boundary. Data and people are defined by their relationship to the specified limit. There are people inside and outside the perimeter. Knowing the border, describing it, and maintaining distinction is critical to "being" and "belonging" to the set (or not). These sets do not change - they only add or lose what is inside the boundary. This means that the entire purpose of the set is to "cross the boundary" from the outside to be inside.
On the other hand, centered sets do not focus on the boundary. Instead, the data and people in a centered group are defined by their relationship to (you guessed it) the center. All data and people are either removed toward or away from the center. The limit or boundaries are still part of the set but are only determined by the relationship the data or person is to the center - not the boundary. Some may be near and others far, but always moving.
Enough math and science for now.
We often default to thinking (and living) in bounded sets. People are in or out based on a moral standard or behavior that we have come to accept as a norm within a community.
The reason I say that the students we met earlier this week love God, love people, and live like Jesus where they live, work, learn, and play whether they know it or not is that from a "centered set" understanding, God already loves them. God is already the center of life because Jesus is risen. So, their relationship with Jesus - whether they know Jesus or not, is a matter of distance, not crossing a boundary or doing something to "cross over" into the God-stuff.
In fact, the world is all God's and everything in it (Psalm 19), and Jesus tore down the boundary that separated all people from God (Philippians 2).
Earlier this year, I was reminded by my friend Jeff that people are either moving toward Jesus or away from Jesus.
Along with that, distance is not the same as openness. If Jesus is the center, you and I can be:
I don't know where the students are with the center of life - Jesus. But, if Jesus' word is accurate and He says that we will know we are my disciples by our love - then these students are not that far from the center at all. . . perhaps they don't know how close Jesus really is to them.
And who will share that good news with them if that's the case?
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.