I was once told that in regards to politics I had very strong opinions for not knowing very much. Harsh, right? Part of me was thinking, lie to me people! Don’t tell me the truth! But I guess I want the truth, this one just hit me in the gut. I immediately put on my defensive I-can’t-believe-you just-said-that face and yelled “I’ll show you you know-it-all!” Ok the first half is true. I think my actual response was something closer to, “yea, whatever.” As I stomped away (or more than likely sat for a few more hours pondering my revenge) I decided to actually discover the reasons behind my beliefs and come back spitting fire made out of hard facts and strong evidence. About an hour of that and I was bored. Politics made me feel itchy so I decided that it would really just be easier for everyone to realize that I am never wrong. Isn’t that how it works? Or is it, say it with confidence and pretend you know the details? Who knows. At any rate I survived the political season held up by my menacing glares, my occasional wit, and a few well-placed words I learned in my economics classes.
But there are other aspects of my life where it isn’t ok to just pretend to know what I am talking about. In my Christian life putting up a facade of holiness or knowledge and thinking that it will get me through isn’t going to work. In Christian life it isn’t enough to say the words and just pretend that you can back it up, running away before anyone can actually ask you anything hard. Christianity is being willing to be the one salmon that swims the other way, eventually leading the rest to follow (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen anyone? Great movie.).
Oh but, you know, that whole radical difference thing, that is only for other countries, right? Martyrdom, suffering, being super recognizable....sure Jesus and his disciples talk about that but they meant it for the Middle East, not America. America is church on Sunday and party on Monday! Living the dream! I can profess Jesus and still do what I want, its what is in my heart that counts, not what I do with my Saturday night. I’m just doing the best I can.
In America relevant Christianity is “the thing”, as it in some ways should be. We have students rising up to stand for social justice and we have at least some people in our churches on Sundays. But can I interject? For just a moment I’m going to let my strong opinions pop out. I think there is a great difference between being relevant and being irresponsible.
In other countries where people are persecuted for professing Christianity, Christians understand that they have to be different, they have to stand out in order to be what they are professing to be. But in some American contexts we think that we can get drunk on Saturdays and drink communion wine Sunday morning. This is the effect of our circumstances lying to us.
The question that sits in my brain like a ticking that won’t go away is this: when people see us walking down the street, sitting at the bar, or driving our cars, do they actually see a difference? Or have we blended in so much with our culture that our Christianity has become unrecognizable? I am pretty sure what the Bible has called us to is pretty radical, more radical than bringing a bible to school or getting a seminary degree. I am pretty sure that God has called us to act differently then our neighbor. So if my non-Christian neighbor and I lead the same life, this is a problem.
This is my question. If I am willing to jam to music that has derogatory or unholy language, am I answering God’s call? If I am willing to get drunk at the bar or cuss out that driver that just cut me off, am I answering God’s call? If I get unnecessarily angry at the fast food worker or if I fail to show grace to my family members, am I answering God’s call?
Let me pause here to give us a little pick me up. Let me throw out a few words, namely grace, hope, and sanctification. We are a work in progress guys, Lord knows myself included! We won’t be perfect, and in no way do I think we should give up margaritas, “secular” music, or saying the occasional expletive when we stub our toe or just feel like life sucks. We aren’t called to be holier-than-thou or robots. We have emotions, bad days, good days, and days when we just want to not care. But we cannot forget that we are called to something bigger, something that is supposed to make us uncomfortable and itchy.
We are called to show people how our lives are being transformed by Christ. We are called to be examples, showing that there is something that satisfies us more than anything in this world. It is imperative that our lives show that we are willing to give up anything if it means just one more person will be added to the kingdom, if just one more person will ask why we are the way we are.
My fear is that we as American Christians are losing the truth of what it means to have the name “Christian” attached to us. My fear is that we are slipping so far into the American Dream that we are forgetting what it means to have been dreamt into being by the Creator of the Universe. If we choose to call ourselves Christians then we have a responsibility. And we can mask that responsibility with words like “judgmental” and “uptight” but the truth is its not enough to wear the name of Christ and just not kill people or steal things. In studying Matthew I realize that right in front of me is a whole book about what I am supposed to be, what I am called to be when I take on the name of Jesus follower.
Its all right there, so what are we doing about it?