THEOLOGY OF INTERRUPTION

JESUS, IN LUKE 10, TELLS THE STORY OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN – A MAN IS ON HIS WAY FROM JERUSALEM TO JERICHO – GETS ROBBED – STRIPPED – BEATEN – AND LEFT FOR DEAD ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.

Three people stop by:

  1. First, a priest. He walks by, pretends he doesn’t see it and moves along. 
  2. Second, a Levite. He ignores the man. (not looking good for the religious folk)
  3. Finally, a Samaritan walks by, (the “enemy” of the Jew) fixes him up and makes sure the man is in good care.

In his book, “Life Together“,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks…
It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God’s ‘crooked yet straight path.’

God has used these passages to spark conviction in my life when I find myself placing the day’s plans above people, my agenda over the “claims and petitions”. The priest and Levite in Luke 10 not only morally fail to bring aid where aid is needed; but fail to see the visible sign of the Cross, that God has erected in their path.

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What if we learned to experience interruption differently? Rather than viewing all outside interruption as the enemy of productivity or creativity, what if we viewed our lives as communicative vessels for the sake of the other? We cannot know ourselves outside of the other, and if we open ourselves to embrace a theology of holy interruption, we may usher in newness, revelation, life and story to inform our work and our life in ways that otherwise would simply not be possible.

Bonhoeffer’s point is worth careful consideration. As a pastor and artist, I find God oftentimes meets me in those interrupted moments of life to not only hopefully use me as a means of grace in the lives of those he’s entrusted to me, but to also shape me and change me, perhaps knock me off the well-beaten path, give me a fresh awareness of himself in the lives of others. The same is true for any follower of Jesus in any work environment. Bonhoeffer petitions every Christian to stop and allow for interruption. To cultivate a disruption theology, as it were. This benefits both the one doing the interrupting, as well as the person being interrupted because it is in those instances God reveals himself in ways we may never have seen or experienced otherwise. God is erecting visible signs of the Cross in our path for our benefit to show us that his kingdom is at hand – to invite us in his work.

Interruption is God’s invitation. God is inviting us to see him all around us, in the lives of others, in our conversations, in our serving those in need. Interruption is not simply a matter of our hearts developing patience, it’s about experiencing life! It is one of God’s ways of waking us up to what’s around us to see there’s perhaps more to be done than our task for the day, as important as it may be. Interruption is God’s enhancement of our art and his tender way of encouraging his creatures to be a part of the kingdom come.

For you artists out there, remember that you have the peculiar privilege of weaving all of these interactions and experiences into something artful and meaningful for the love of neighbor. To stiff-arm such interactions for the sake of productivity is to stiff-arm the very means of love for the other and to make yourself wholly unproductive as an artist.