Seems to me that God has given all of us the need to belong, to have â€œa peopleâ€ to belong to. Those without belonging have a hole in their soul that bleeds. Some build facades to mask the deficit. Sociopaths suture the wound with anger and aggression. Others default to fear and isolation—sociophobes.
What should be the qualities of a uniquely Christian culture, a uniformly welcoming people? Liturgy? Doctrinal purity? The implicit â€œdos and donâ€™tsâ€ of evangelicalism? Shouldnâ€™t it be love?
Love: visible, intentional and practical action for the benefit of others. Hospitality, compassion, simplicity, joy and the exhilarating release of a people who have gained the universe and have cast off fear and its sister, anxiety. For this we have to decide what is truly relevant to us as a â€œgenetically alteredâ€ ethnic group, a holy nation and a peculiar people. So much of the cultural inheritance that we have received from the time/space world we live in is, at its core, irrelevant to the new life that we are capacitated to live.
I have a box of â€œodds and endsâ€ out in the garage—nuts, bolts, screws, washers, and a generous bunch of etcetera. When I need something for a home repair or automotive fix, I often find myself pawing through that box looking for the one thing I need for the purpose. Everything else in the box is irrelevant, but I have to rummage through it all, rejecting the irrelevant, to find the thing that fits. The trick is to have a clear image of the needed item in my head. Without that, everything in there becomes a confusing mass of possibilities.
Being in the temporal world is a lot like living in that box. Most of whatâ€™s around me isnâ€™t relevant to me as a follower of Jesus. It doesnâ€™t fit the purpose. As a follower I need to get a clear picture of the needed item fixed in my head so I will recognize it when I see it—a clear and detailed image of love and loving. Thatâ€™s a fundamental element of a uniquely Christian culture: knowing whatâ€™s important and emphasizing it; and recognizing whatâ€™s unimportant and ignoring it. Let the rummaging begin! Step one is to sort out and reject what doesnâ€™t look like visible, practical, and intentional action on behalf of others. Step two, three, four, and all the steps that come after, are to do whatâ€™s left. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to wholeheartedly, and with abandon, run into the new cultural norms of Christ-following personhood.
One solemn hour each week, then six days and twenty-three hours lived in the civilization of fallen man, was not the earlier believersâ€™ understanding of ecclesia. They had their own community, they were the community, they had their own â€œcivilizationâ€; it operated around the clock and throughout the calendar.
~~Gene Edwards, The Highest Life