You don’t have to read many news headlines or watch too many news clips to see that the world has its struggles. It seems that more often than not bad news trumps good news. For whatever reason we genuinely are attracted to news that has us gripped or concerned. As a friend of mine (@mikerusch) tweeted the other day, “fear is a tragic and powerful motivator”.
I have a hard time with general negativity, despite my guilt in this area. In a casual conversation with a stranger the other day I was petitioned to agree with her that our country is going downhill fast and that things are worse than she’s ever seen it before. Without arguing I encouraged her to provide further explanation which revealed a lack of evidence for her claim other than what amounted to, in her view, a decline of morality. I’m not sure what standard of judgment she was using and I didn’t ask but I wonder if she had applied that same standard to her own heart.
It seems that much of Evangelical Christianity has a hard time with the status quo. There are for sure different perspectives for how to see the future. There are different perspectives for how we see the present as well but I wonder when do we realize that our biases are more influenced by cultural waves and ideas than we are likely to admit. Allowing fear and cynicism to leak into our cosmogony is counter to how Christian Believers are called to live.
Allowing Christ to rule in both our hearts and our lives doesn’t simply mean that we go to church on Sunday or speak Christianese with our circle of friends. The Gospel and the Story of God found in the great meta-narrative of the Universe speaks to all of life. To some this means that Christianity divides Believers and Unbelievers, political parties etc, and even as of late, restaurants. What’s left in the rubble of this division is the un-biblical false dichotomy of Christ vs. Culture.
In his book Chameleon Christianity Dick Keyes gives us an accurate portrait of the resentment that both “culturally relevant” Christianity has created and the division which “tribal” Christianity has caused. Confessing my roles in both the chameleon “blending into the culture” and musk ox of “tribalism” I realize that I have been part of the problem and I am still grieved that we struggle so much with these issues.
Colossians 1 vss. 15-23 teach us that our Christian faith goes much deeper than becoming a chameleon in our culture, blending in, and/or a musk ox sheltering ourselves from “the world.” Christ ministered to many and was never afraid of anyone or any philosophy or ideology knowing that “The Kingdom of Heaven” was near. We have a High Priest who was in the ministry of reconciling all things to himself. “19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (ESV)
I go to a confessional church. This means several things, but one thing it means is that on a weekly basis we are reminded of what we believe. That might seem silly to some who believe themselves to know and understand fully what they believe. I confess that I forget. I forget the Gospel, I forget what Christ has done and I fail to acknowledge who is in charge. By confessing together we understand corporately what we believe and remind each other of the Gospel so that cynicism, anxiety and fear do not rule our hearts.
Confessional churches still forget. I still forget. Thanks be to God for Christ Jesus our Lord who has been in the business of reconciliation since the beginning. We don’t have to be afraid of the culture or what popular idea is trending the fastest, even if it is sinful and full of idolatry. We can be free from anxiety when our own lives become difficult and hard because we have One who loves to renew and restore. Surely we will feel stress and fear but we must not give into these.
Christ has always been in the business of making things new. Even when our bodies fail and our breath becomes weak or relationships become difficult we have the promise of full restoration. This gives us the freedom to engage and renew the world around us. We can both celebrate the beauty of Christ’s church with its wonderful Orthodoxy and Creeds and Confessions and at the same time work to renew and restore our neighbors and our communities.
Living in a dichotomized world of the Christian chameleon or the musk ox reduces one’s faith to self-righteous judgment and withdrawal. This is not the calling of the believer in Christ as it was not the role of our Savior. Jesus went into a world that rejected and refused him in order to reconcile to himself a people who were at one time his enemies. What love! What Grace! Trusting Christ ought to lead us to engage the world around us, especially our enemies. For He is making all thing new! Where the world says take and store up, the gospel says give away and empty. Where the world says be concerned with self, the gospel says trust in the one who gave himself up in an act of love so that we might have reconciliation in the Kingdom of God.