My courses at Fuller have been a tremendous blessing to me. As someone who enjoys education, self-discovery, and (hopefully) personal growth, I enjoy being challenged to become more of a reflection of the God I love. Interdenominational discussion boards not only confirm my eclectic background and international experience, but cause me to ponder “community,” specifically the American church in its cultural context.
My grief over the “word of faith,” “seed of faith,” “prosperity gospel” or in our case “faith message,” was rooted in the pain of losing a child. My ongoing grievances stem from teachings that have a total lack of understanding the complete sufficiency of Christ, and what it means to worship God from a place of internal transformation as opposed to external “blessings.” To love God simply because he is.
Prosperity “doctrine” stems from a culture that has embraced credit cards, self-gain, and an egocentric view of the gospel. “Invest in the Kingdom of God and God will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings.” “Sow the see and reap the benefits.” Even when the motive is a “better life” it is not witnessing to the gospel of the Kingdom “among us” as Jesus modeled, nor the power of the Holy Spirit – the very presence of God living in us. Jesus had an extreme concern for caring for the poor and only mentioned the coveting of financial gain as evil. The prosperity Jesus promoted was the will of the Father lived out in his comforting, constant, and transforming presence.
I am also wondering if there is a link between the “give me now” Christianity and the “give me now” political climate I am seeing unfold in the church. I am disturbed by a lack of compassion, respect, and “what would Jesus do” in regards to many political issues and leaders. People seem to be tossing aside morality, acts of justice, mercy, respect, and well, common Christlike sense for what appears to be a “what are my needs” “what will serve me best.” Candidates spend more time bashing each other than discussing topics of importance- some more than others. Some with an arrogance that surpasses any semblance of humility or decent human kindness.
Jesus went about “doing good.” He resisted the cultural norms, customs, and laws of His day despite the persecution it brought him. When God delivered Israel from Egypt the first thing He did was to teach them to recognize idols, covetousness, and the bondage Egypt had placed upon them, by instructing them to resist those things. The law of the heart is a love of God and a love for others. He was trying to get them to accept His all encompassing sufficiency, and though they wandered in the dessert, they wandered in the constant presence of God.
I’d rather you take my money, just don’t take my God. I’d rather you take my freedom, just don’t take my God. I’d rather you take my life, just don’t take my good…
Should be the cry of every confessing Christian alive.
Throw me to lions but you can’t have my God.
And, we should be humble enough to know that if we are faced with lions, we may chicken out like Peter did…
By grace we stand.
Americans tend to look down on the poor, those who live simply, are content with little, and small churches with bi-vocational pastors, but uphold the rich as the epitome of success. Case in point – look at our leading Republican nominee hopeful and the demographics of those who support him. The poor and marginalized are worried. The middle class are worried.
(I know there will be those who argue we’re “Kings Kids” or espouse that making more money means we have more to give away, but we don’t wealthy preachers living among the poor, or keeping less than they give away. They do not model to those who look up to them that we are to resist the culture of now, but instead model excessive lifestyles of unnecessary wealth, instilling in those who follow them they should covet material wealth as well. As a King’s Kid, I want to resemble the King in His love for humanity and care for what he did.)
But I digress-
It has been an encouragement to be on course forums with individuals congregating in one place, where I can witness many deeper thinkers, philosophers, contemplatives and movers and shakers who understand that social justice and mercy are conjoined at the hip, and like Job, we learn empathy and caring the most from our places of pain and lack, in our small churches, and in involvement in all aspects of community, both here and abroad.
They challenge me further to think beyond my cultural barriers and “folk religion.”
Sadly, much of America emphasis external obedience and external desires, as the Good News, as opposed to internal transformation, dying to self, and contemplative spirituality within much of American evangelicalism. (I get it – that used to be me. I thought dying to self was self-abasing legalism and never getting it right.) The voices of great leaders like Dallas Willard who mirrored the inner presence of God are needed now more than ever.
Mature Discipleship is not about what we can get from God, but what we bring to God in partnering in his creative and redemptive process. It begins in Christology and ends in Christology with a lot of praxis sandwiched in between.
Instead of resisting the culture of now, we demand that God conform to our golden image of “gimme, gimme, gimme, I need, I need” (A line from the movie What About Bob? A favorite of ours.)
It begins in Christ, evolves in Christ, lives in Christ, plays out in Christ -all in obedience to the Father and enabled by the Holy Spirit; a trinitarian community of One who eternally models for us a “new creature” world view.
We simply have forgotten what God means when he says “Be still and know that I am God.” Movies on demand, pain medications, debit machines, credit, fast food, cell phones, ipods, instant access to almost everything, have created a society with endless chatter running through our minds. Sexist reality TV shows like the Bachelor have people idealizing shallow relationships driven by self motivation instead of a reverence for humanity and concern for the other.
How often do we sit in absolute stillness and just be?
How often do those who are vocalizing maintaining our own personal freedom, finances, and safety stop to think about the enslaved, poor, persecuted, and fleeing, and cry out to God to do what is best for them?
Enter in the God of creation who created beauty our of nothing – order out of chaos and and on the 7th day said,
“Trust me. Then go and love me and your neighbor above and beyond every things else. That is what I require. Nothing you do or give me means a thing unless you:
Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly. (Micah 6:8)
That is what you must esteem to be like Me.”
May we all aspire to be like Jesus, and look to model his ways in ourselves, our community, and our country.
As we face the culture of now in lifestyle, politics, and religion, may we resist it – in exchange for a culture of eternity.
True freedom lies in Christ alone.