I was challenged recently when listening to a Dean Taylor session at the 2012 AIC conference. Thinking of my life and my church life I wondered about my/our activities and their significance in building the Way of Jesus in the here and now. And what is that Way? I believe it’s the full realization of God’s original intention for earth and its inhabitants. It’s eden where everyone lives like Jesus. It is an existence where pain, hunger, loneliness, fear, bleeding, arrogance, envy, confusion, fakery, violence and want do not exist. And Jesus calls all of His followers to live in a way that begins to bring this very reality into the here and now – so it grows into the time of His coming culmination.
Jesus’ life and teachings reemphasized the cry of the prophets pointing towards this reality. His words join the narrative arch of Scripture that dreams and promotes this vision. Mark 12:30 says,
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
And from the parable in Matt. 25:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’No other commandment is greater than these.”
What I wonder is; how much of what I do is really worthwhile in the light of those verses. Are there things that are not ‘bad’ but do not really ‘do’ anything towards bringing Christ’s Way into the here and now? Does the american church do things and go through rituals that are not ‘bad’ but in the big picture really don’t advance the restorative path to Eden that God has in mind for all humans?
Does our western emphasis on an individualized romance relationship with God build the self-sacrificing communalism that must come about to fully realize His kingdom? Does sitting in church Sunday after Sunday listening to sermon’s and Sunday school answers feed those who are hungry (physically and spiritually)? What do fun-filled years in the Youth Group really do? Do all of the committees and subcommittees and meetings actually bring about the reality of His Way? Does getting hyped up in a worship rock show do anything to mitigate the deep emotional/mental needs in our society and churches? Does spending all that tithe money on programs, staff and giant temples of make-me-feel-good bring real, lasting peace, joy and restoration to its attendees or to the hungry, sad, lonely and bitter on the ‘outside’? Does staying in our american evangelical ghetto of ‘christian’ music, television/cable, books, movies, conferences, and festivities actually transform the world’s darkness into Jesus’ light?
Aspects of all of the above may have a regular or intermittent place in our journey, but in the light of God’s restorative Way, do the things that the american church likes to focus on actually do much of anything to bring heaven down to earth? Often – I wonder.