OK, so I’ve been processing through Jonathan’s book a little more over the past couple of weeks. As I’ve done so, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how we live as Jesus-followers vs. what we say about our faith. I passed by a church this week that had a sign that read “Eternal Life Insurance Free!” While I’ve heard many people talk about the way we describe salvation in these terms (or as “eternal fire insurance”), this is the first time I’ve ever seen a church explicitly state it. A little while back and less than a quarter mile up the road, there is another church sign that did read, “Jesus is my Prozac.” While I do not want to accuse either of these churches of the attitude described in the following excerpt, it got me to thinking about this passage from The Wisdom of Stability:
The faith we affirm each Sunday morning is more than a set of beliefs about who God is and what Jesus did for for us on the cross two thousand years ago. It is that, for sure, but it is more. The faith we sing is a radical trust that the God who raised Jesus from the dead can save us now from the demons that have us by the neck . . . Apart from stability in the life of community, the songs of Zion quickly begin to sound like wishful thinking. How dare we sing about the sweet by and by while our kids don’t have health care and our teenagers are leaving the neighborhood in police cars and body bags? If our longing for home is just personal nostalgia, it is no better than the booze and dope that promise some short-term respite from the harsh reality around us. Fragile people in a broken neighborhood, we are susceptible to “crack religion” that sells Jesus as cheap comfort for whatever ails us.
What relation does Sunday morning have to Monday morning, Tuesday Afternoon, Wednesday at break, dropping the kids off at school on Thursday, or going out Friday night? Is one’s “spiritual life” merely one more component to add to their physical, emotional, love , relational, mental, etc.? Do we really believe in a disembodied spirituality – where soul is good and otherworldly, while flesh is bad and confined to this world?
The church is called to live the resurrection of Jesus Christ – to be a community of resurrection. When our faith gets divorced from the everyday cares and concerns of our life, it becomes useless. The discipleship that Jesus calls us to embody is that of laying down our lives and following the Master. We are to “take up [our] cross daily and follow [him]” (Luke 9:23). The church has the distinctive opportunity to model a different way of existing than the culture that surrounds us. We have the opportunity to model a community of radical hospitality defined by our acceptance and love – where we don’t relate to one another based on externals, but on the presence of “image of God” in each human being. We have the chance to model radical forgiveness to those who have wronged us. We have the chance to speak out on behalf of those whom Jesus championed – the poor, the outcast, the helpless, the sick, the oppressed, the losers, and the lost. We have the chance to become a community whose very life echoes the words of the prophet Micah, “He has told you, O man what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
And there is it. Our faith is not nearly so much about a set of beliefs than it is about a walk. This is echoed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “Walk worthy of [your] calling (4:1). . . walk in love (5:2) . . . walk as children of light (5:8) . . . walk not as fools but as wise (5:15).” The bottom line is this – we will never be able to reach a hurting world until we are willing to reach out to their pain with a faith robust enough to speak to their needs. At the same time, the solutions we offer must be more than social services – we must speak/live the power of the resurrection into these situations, opting for an eternal life that doesn’t start in the sweet by and by, but one that starts in the sometimes-painful here and now. Forming stable “communities of resurrection” seems like a good start to me.