I want to energize cultural shift; I want to invigorate soul healing; I want to ooze the Gospel. I am stymied in this desire by a cultural misperception of what the Gospel is designed to permeate. I believe that the Gospel does exactly that – permeates – leaves no stone unturned, penetrates to our core and transforms from the inside out. But North American Christians don’t expect to have their lives over turned by the Gospel. After all, many of them “received” the Gospel years ago and it hasn’t radicalized much since then!
Eugene Peterson conveys my thoughts well…
My concern is provoked by the observation that so many who understand themselves to be followers of Jesus, without hesitation, and apparently without thinking, embrace the ways and means of the culture as they go about their daily living “in Jesus’ name.” But the ways that dominate our culture have been developed either in ignorance or in defiance of the ways that Jesus uses to lead us as we walk the streets and alleys, hike the trails, and drive the roads in this God-created, God-saved, God-blessed, God-ruled world in which we find ourselves. They seem to suppose that “getting on in the world” means getting on in the world on the world’s terms, and that the ways of Jesus are useful only in a compartmentalized area of life labeled “religious.” (pg 1)
The prevailing ways and means curricula in which we are all immersed in North America are designed to help us get ahead in whatever field of work we find ourselves…The courses first instruct us in skills and principles that we are told are foundational and then motivate us to use these skills so that we can get what we want out of this shrunken, desiccated “world, flesh, and devil” field. And of course it works wonderfully as long as we are working in that particular field in which getting things done is the “end.” (pg 2)
When it comes to persons, these ways of the world are terribly destructive. They are highly effective in getting ahead in a God-indifferent world, but not in the community of Jesus, not in the kingdom of God. We uncritically accept these curricula as our primary orientation in how to get on in this world, we naively embrace the very temptations of the devil that Jesus so definitely vetoed and rebuked. (pg 3)
Warnings are frequently and prominently posted by our sages and prophets to let us know that these purely pragmatic ways and means of the world weaken and enervate the community of the baptized. The whole North American ways and means culture, from assumptions to tactics, is counter to the rich and textured narrative laid out for us in our Scriptures regarding walking in the way of righteousness, running in the way of the commandments, following Jesus. In matters of ways and means, the world gives scant attention to what it means to live, to really live, to live eternal life in ordinary time: God is not worshiped, Jesus is not followed, the Spirit is not given a voice. (pg 3)[i]
This is what I want for my family, for my congregation, and for Christians everywhere. To live in technicolor, to truly be a firstfruit of the world to come when all will have been not only redeemed, but re-made by Messiah. This will require a new comprehension of the ongoing nature of conversion, and a renewed commitment to the body (the community) of Messiah over and above our personal obsession with God’s salvific work in our person.
[i] Peterson, Eugene H. The Jesus Way: A Conversation On The Ways that Jesus is the Way. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2007.
Now Listening: Jason Upton – Remember – Fly
Now Reading: Inhabiting the Church by John Stock, et al, The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson and On the Way to Jesus Christ by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)