A fellow blogger recently pointed me to a video about faith that uses the mathematical concepts of bounded sets and centered sets to explain, basically, the most effective mindset for evangelizing.
The video is here if you want to watch it, but in a nutshell, the message is this: Remember that the point is not to make someone more like you (whether you're Catholic, Baptist, whatever), but to help them move closer to the center -- Jesus -- wherever they're starting from. That's how I interpreted it, anyway.
The whole notion of bounded vs. centered sets cast a new light for me on these reflections about the type of Christian I am.
A bounded set is defined by what it includes and what it does not include. A centered set, on the other hand, is defined by a center point and how close or far the other points are to it.
I see a lot of Christians (and people of all faiths) approach their religion as a bounded set. If you do this, you are a Christian. If you do this, you are not a Christian. There are clear boundaries on what constitutes being or not being Christian.
But if we look in the Gospels, we see Jesus reject this very model. He rejects those who try to label Him as not a proper Jew because of his words or actions. He rejects the old view that we have to say exactly the right words and spend our time with exactly the right people and eat exactly the right things at the right time or else fall outside God's grace.
Instead, he reminds us about the core commandments, the things that really matter above all else: Loving God, and loving each other.
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."What does faith look like when it is centered on love? Take a minute to read this familiar verse.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.So what's the point?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
With this model, you strip away all of the rules. You strip away the theological differences between the faiths. You strip away anything that divides, that judges, that hates.
You are left with only a single question to answer: Will this bring me closer to love, or farther away?