There are two brothers who don’t talk to each other very much. Let’s call the older brother Theology, and the younger brother, let’s call him Missiology.
They don’t read each others’ books, they judge each other, they are very rarely in the same room together. Sometimes they don’t even attend the same church. It’s not so much that they are constantly arguing; more that they move in different circles and pretend each other don’t exist.
The younger is adventurous.
He has a tendency to wander a little too far from home, come to his senses, and then come back home. He can be reckless and more often than not ends up in a mess. He is inconsistent. He is creative and entrepreneurial and thinks about the whole world, not just the house. Because he has visited the far country he has a broad perspective.
The older brother’s orientation is conservative.
He will defend the family lands and labour for maintenance of the status quo. He is reliable and disciplined. He does things with a certain rigour and to a definite standard. But he only cares about his own house. He looks down on adventure and ambition. He has a narrow perspective.
Whenever the younger brother wanders too far and gets lost, the older brother is at best sad, “What a waste. I told you so. Why can’t you just stay at home?” At worst, he is angry and judgmental, “How can my father keep throwing him parties? He is bringing disrepute on our family name. He is dangerous!”
The younger brother despises the caution and lack of ambition of the older. “There is a whole world out there. Don’t just stay at home. I know you want the gardens to be perfect but they look pretty good to me. How many times can you mow the same lawn anyway?” The danger is, sometimes in his zeal he can disrespect his father, and his brother.
The father loves both of his sons.
He wishes the older was a little less stuffy and parochial, had a little more grace and openness to fresh ideas. He wishes the younger wouldn’t go quite so far, would listen to the hard-won wisdom of generations and would not try to re-invent the wheel quite so often. The father invites both to his parties.
Most of all, though, the Father dreams about a world where there two honour each other and listen to one other, a world where they even work together! Where the older brother, repository of wisdom and tradition that he is, would learn to be a little more imaginative and gracious, a little less narrow and dismissive. And the younger brother would use all his energy and creativity and global ambition in a way that honours the family name, that doesn’t keep ending up broke and with the pigs.
After all, the Father always intended to entrust his estate to both brothers.
Both brothers have their sins. Both also have their gift. But they need each other. Oh for churches and movements that are strong in both!
[If you’re interested in this topic, here’s a list of my recommended books on contextual theology.]