We’re all familiar with the concept of “collateral damage.” In a military operation there may be unintended destruction resulting in injury and death, even of the innocent, even in a day when laser technology allows for greater precision in the use of weapons with massive destructive potential. In some circles, leaders expect a certain amount of such “collateral damage” in high stakes operations. Their expectation can sometimes breed a sense of quasi-justification—given the strategic importance of the mission and the critical outcomes of its success, these “losses” become “acceptable,” if regrettable.
I’m thinking about the strategic, critical mission Jesus has given us as His Body, the mission that responds wholly and comprehensively to the ruin on rampage in the world, human persons, and communities. Jesus’ missional response leads to the reconciling of all things, the right-wising and the restoring of creation to the “very good” God once uttered over it.
In all sorts of clear and intentional ways, Christ followers pursue their mission. All over the landscape here and there signs of “spring,” of life, love and hope can be found. Whatever the degree of dysfunction in things human, whatever the depth of despair into which some have sunk—in the face of whatever, followers of Jesus, filled with back-from-the-dead Presence and Power, assault the forces of darkness, defeating them and setting people free, in all the ways long denied them. In countless places and circumstances, such hope happens, no matter how dreary and dismal the leading economic, social, cultural and political indicators may be. All of this occurs by design, of course. That is, followers of Jesus are following; they are going with Jesus everywhere, doing Jesus-like things.
To the extent this is so, we should expect and celebrate what I am calling “collateral repair.” To some degree, we expect that there will be unintended good, gratuitous blessings (aren’t they all, in another sense?), “accidental” sparks of beauty, truth, and kindness, almost casual, by-the-way birthings of Shalom. When Jesus was among us in the flesh this is what happened. The Canaanite woman pled for mercy for her child, and there were at least a few crumbs that fell from the table for the blessing of a family otherwise excluded from blessing (Matt. 15). For a woman who was slowly bleeding to death, what could be described as a calculated, risky “casual” touch brought healing that none of the physicians could manage. It happened almost “accidentally” as Jesus was on the way bringing healing to another (Mark 5). At times we read about crowds of people some of whom got near enough to Jesus simply to touch him, and their touch proved restorative and regenerating. After his resurrection and the forming of the church at Pentecost, we read of apostolic ministry that gained the favor of the people characterized by occasions when the mere shadow of Jesus’ servants had healing effect.
These are instances of “collateral repair,” the abounding of blessing that flowed to people not directly targeted and sometimes not even sought by those who benefited. And it seems right to me to dream and even anticipate such blessing flowing even today. Although “the church” often takes the rap for bad thinking, speaking and acting, sometimes deservingly so, still here and there Easter life creates Easter communities through whom death defying, denying, and defeating power works and the whole community enjoys blessing. The followers of Jesus, truly following, make others glad they are there. The way of Jesus is put on display with attractive intensity. People wonder. Some draw near. And some are surprised to sense a “rightness,” a “delight,” a positive potency, an “aliveness” assaulting them and their “space,” threatening to put them together, realign their relationships, re-sync the rhythms of their lives, and reorient their futures. These are people assaulted and made victims of “collateral repair” as the Jesus-people live their lives following their Mentor and Master as hard as they can. To the great joy of nearly all concerned, those who draw near and who sustain such assault look to see anyone who can help them understand what has happened. Usually, the Jesus whose Body must accept responsibility for the “repair” arranges the help they need. Then, he smiles.