I've recently been reading The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Although seeming slightly idealistic in places (though, that is hardly a crime) it is certainly a book that left me different after reading it. For quite a time now I've felt that the Church is missing the point somewhat. In a world of obvious problems, we offer very few solutions. Yet we are said to be following this Jewish revolutionary in the first century who preached a message (and lived a life) of ministry to the broken, the poor and the needy.
However, we seem to have turned the hard, seismic words of 'Jesus the radical' into a self-help guide to living a good life by 'the Buddy-Christ'. That, for me, just doesn't quite cut it. Relatively little time and effort is spent on feeding the poor/clothing the naked/taking in the strangers. Perhaps we give a little to charity? Rely on other organisations to do our "charitable" work...
Jesus came to bring in a new way. A different way of life. Indeed we acknowledge this when we talk of having new life - the mistake we make is that we interpret this only in light of future "life after death". I want a "new life". In fact I have no choice. Theologically, spiritually, or whatever you prefer to say, I am no longer alive. Paul understood this and could say that "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" [Galatians 2:20]. My own ambitions no longer should consume me - only the ambitions of God.
Taking that seriously is a daunting thing! But, how else can we take it? Was Jesus pulling our leg when he demanded a different way of life? Was Paul winking while he whimsically announced that he no longer lived...? But my big question is, "What are we doing?"
What are we doing?
Delirious? have recently released a new album called Kingdom of Comfort. It is a very good offering from the d: boys. The first and title track makes a plea that the singer be saved from "the kingdom of comfort where I am king". Which begs the question for you and I - "Am I building a kingdom of comfort or am I building the kingdom of God"? The church should be making a difference in the community it lives in.
The people of God should be getting their hands dirty. In fact they should be getting their arms, legs, backs and faces dirty! Living a different way of life, to bring about a different way of life. This community of people [the church] should be characterised for their difference - their holiness (in the truest sense of the word]. Sharing EVERYTHING they have (OK, not everything - "swinging" is not advised...!) but you get the point. Do we really share everything? Are we the first to respond to the needs of our "neighbour" - who, by the way, is anyone and everyone we meet (cf. the Good Samaritan).
I am trying to push myself into a kingdom of discomfort. Not allowing myself to "relativise" everything, and excuse myself from action. I was talking with someone the other day about the conversation Jesus has with the rich man, where Jesus says that he must sell everything he has and give it to the poor. We were discussing how it is usually interpreted as: we should be willing to give up anything for the sake of Christ. How we shouldn't place anything above our devotion to God... however - Jesus didn't ask the man if he was willing to sell everything; he told him to go and do it. The man couldn't.
I am worried that the church is full of people who believe they are willing but never actually do that much, really - myself a prime culprit. I know the message, the theology, the "ideal"... I thought I was "willing" - but when was the last time I did sell everything and give it to the poor?? When was the last time you did?
But it's just not practical in our day and age is it? It's too uncomfortable. My "kingdom of comfort" would fall...