(Second of three parts. Continued thoughts from March 21, 2005)
The community that Jesus had presented to his followers was simple:
* You are not of this world. Don’t try to live like you are.
* Love each other. That is the mark of a disciple.
* You are not part of a hierarchy. Serve, do not dominate or set yourself apart with titles.
* Walk in unity with the Father.
Simple though it was, Jesus’ directive didn’t prove to be easy. He had effectively made outsiders of his disciples. It’s never easy for outsiders, particularly deliberate ones who act like aliens by choice. Christ-followers were going to be misunderstood and hated because they didn’t fit in chose not to fit in. Jesus warned his disciples that the world wouldn’t understand a people that consciously rejected it and its systems.
But therein lies the problem. Are we conscientiously rejecting the world? Are we familiar enough with the ways of the Kingdom that we can differentiate between it and what Paul called elementary principles- simple kid’s stuff? (Colossians 2:20). Furthermore, are we able (more importantly, willing) to set a course that intentionally diverges from the world’s systems and aims for a rendezvous with the Kingdom of God?
Not so much.
I am feeling compelled to explore practical ways for we Christ-followers to live as outsiders-strangers and aliens-in the world. My view is that the systems of the world are, at their core, idolatry, that is they are patterns of thought and practice that are human constructions under the covert supervision of the enemy of God. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not thrashing in the brush looking for demons. Wild-eyed paranoia over the works of the devil would make lousy editorial policy. I’d rather make a case for a uniquely Christian worldview that puts the world-the kosmos-in its proper place relative to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23). I italicized the last line here because that is precisely what I believe has happened in Western evangelicalism. Our light is darkness so we are only dimly aware of the rot that has eaten away at the substance of contemporary society. We have contented ourselves to be a “subculture” borrowing liberally from the world, sanitizing what we borrow to make it look “Jesusy,” then consuming it-white-bread Christianity packed with processed sugar and flour-as though it were actually good for us. Worse, a subculture is a culture in isolation. John Fischer said,
Instead of engaging our culture in a meaningful way, we have often preferred a siege mentality, retreating into the safety of our Christian subculture. We are more comfortable fighting culture than we are being constructively involved in it. Ironically, on every front we mount highly charged rhetorical battles with a worldly culture, while at the same time, within the walls of our subculture, we try to imitate the worldly culture’s nuance. (Fearless Faith. Harvest House, 2002. p. 15)
Moreover, we have missed the need for what Blamires calls, “a Christian Mind.” (The Christian Mind. Servant Books, 1978). I think that as we press into the 21st century, such a mind will call us beyond subculture and into counterculture.