Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Accordion at a Guitar Jam?

Several years ago, I listened to a Brian McLaren message.  He told a story. Brian was facilitating a discussion among a certain denomination's leaders.  He drew a line down the middle of a dry erase board.  On one side he wrote, "Major issues in in the Church."  On the other he wrote "Major issues in the world."  The denomination heads brainstormed both sides of the line until they exhausted their interest in the exercise.  At that point, Brian pointed out that there was no issue listed on the Church side found on the World side.  The story struck a nerve and led me to question, "Is Christianity and the Church relevant to the world? Can we survive the next century if we keep living on Planet Christian unaware and disinterested in the wilting world world around us? Does the message of the Christian faith speak anything worthwhile to the day to day life of everyday people trying to survive?"

If Christianity simply promises a better afterlife, if its main gift to this life is moral mastery and the easing of a guilty conscious, if it offers hope for the future but simply medication for the present then, yes, Christianity is irrelevant to this life.  In this sense, not only is Christianity irrelevant, it suggests this life is irrelevant too- except for securing an invitation to the relevant life to come."

On the other hand, if Christianity centers itself on the gospel, if it really offers "good news," if it does not medicate this life but heals the wounds in this life, if the resurrection isn't the exception but rather the pattern, if it offers hope for your shattered relationship as much as for your eternal destination then the Christian message is the most relevant news in all creation.  I believe it IS relevant to those living in the open sewer slums of Brazil and to those vacationing in their Swiss mansions.  Jesus speaks to our greatest desires and needs.

  1. LOVE.  I believe the number one desire of every human being is to be loved. We spend most of our life seeking genuine love, unconditional love, and relentless love (hesed).  God paints the gospel message on a canvass of love.  Love is the center, the reason, the point of the Christian faith.  God, as the perfect community of love - Father, Son, and Spirit, created from the overspill of his love. The snow-capped mountains, the reefs accessorized with dazzling sea life, the cries of a newborn, and the teaming white waters are God's love made visible.  God did not create to be adored.  He created to love.  Love is selfless.  It must have an object.  We are the object of his love and he invites us to make him the object of our love and only "there" is Love complete.  Some may say, "What about justice and wrath and worship?"  Yes, they are part of the gospel message but they are all children of Love.  Justice is Love with arms and legs.  Wrath is Love refusing to let the virus of sin destroy God's masterpiece. Worship is the response when encountering Love! If human beings ultimately crave love, then Christianity is relevant.
  2. VALUE.  Clinging to the heels of love, we all desire to be valued.  We want our existence to be worthwhile and so we strive.  We chase money so our value has a concrete measurable figure. We accumulate power, collect people and place them below us, so we can look down and know, "At least I'm worth more than 145 people."  We crave influence and measure our value based on how often others retweet us, how many followers we have on our blogs, how many copies of books we sell, the size of crowds to whom we speak to, the number of individuals who quote our words... We strive, push, pull, run, go, work, climb, fight, reach, stretch until we are exhausted.  We look back on our lives and we see we spent all our time "doing" and forgot to "be." All to feel valuable. But, the opening chapter of the Christian story says: "So God created mankind in his own image/ in the image of God he created them/ male and female he created them." God says, "You have value because I made you." If human beings seek value, then Christianity is relevant.
  3. BELONGING.  I had bouts this past summer with a loneliness so thick that, for the first time, I understood why some people contemplate and attempt suicide (note: I never contemplated suicide but understood why people arrive at that place).  Loneliness is crippling. We need relationship.  Gangs, people staying in destructive relationships, and peer pressure's effectiveness stem from our desire to belong.  Not only do we desire community; we need it. The old adage "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" sounds fierce and strong but it is a lie.  First of all, someone made the bootstraps. Second, while there may be times of "pulling yourself up" there will be more times when your bootstraps tear or you cut your arms off and you will need help.  We need to belong, to have family, to have friends, to have community.  Christianity is community!  You cannot be a Christian without belonging.  In the beginning God created a couple.  When he needed a representative to the world he raised a nation.  When he wanted to continue the ministry of Jesus on earth he bore the Church.  If you are a Christian you are grafted into a community, a belong to a family of Spirit-filled beings. If we need to belong, then Christianity is relevant.
  4. PHYSICAL NEEDS: "Ahh!" you say, "Charlton, what about water, food shelter? How relevant is Christianity to such basic human needs? How can you say it is relevant when so many are hungry, thirsty and homeless?!" I would argue that Jesus, the founder of Christianity, is the answer.  When the Church kicks on all cylinders, when she lives in the Spirit, when she takes seriously the mission of Christ the church meets physical needs.  In Acts 4 the text says, "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them."  The Church didn't need to argue capitalism versus socialism versus communism to secure the best way to meet basic needs.  But rather, out of an understanding of who they were in Jesus Christ they recognized that all belongs to God: land, money, health, crops.  They recognized that they were merely stewards of God's earth and so they made sure no one went empty handed.  If we need water, food, and shelter then Christianity is not only should be the answer.
I preached because I believed Christianity wasn't opium for the masses, or medication for the sick. I preached because I believe the gospel is "good news" for every breathing moment of your life and my life.  It is practical.  It is relevant.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.