There is no creating a "Christian culture" because as soon as you think you've got it, you realize that more is asked! We can never get comfortable and say this is what Christianity looks like in practice. Let's look at the practice of giving. We can start with our comfortable 10% tithe inspired by Old Testament commandments. But then, we look at the New Testament and see that the widow gave ALL she had. So, we decide to give everything. But when we look at Jesus' teachings, we read about the parable of the talents and realize that the responsibility of the servants was to use what was given to them and increase it for the master. And then, to complicate matters further, we see that giving isn't just monetary. We see examples of women giving up their children (Hannah with Samuel). And we read that the earth is the Lord's and everything in it. The world and all who live in it, so we wonder what giving really means when it's already His. So, you see that there's no clear cut: "this is how you should give," apart from cheerfully and not ostentatiously. The only thing you can say is "give."
As a result, you will have some people giving 10%. Some 60%. Some taking vows of poverty. Some creating foundations to support causes. Some only accepting money given to them in their service for God. What's the true Christian response? Yes.
|Domenico Fetti. "Peter's Vision."|
also think that this is not the only way to live the teachings we find. Can you create a culture when there are so many options that are right? We often think there are many ways to go wrong and only one right path. That's true. But the right path looks different for different people. God has called us to different paths. God is calling all of us to give. Should I be buying cans of food for a soup kitchen instead of supporting my Compassion child? I don't think so. Should Jane Smith be buying cans of food instead of supporting a child through Compassion? Quite possibly. A friend asked me recently how much we should give. I told him that it's between you and God and my rule of thumb is "give until it hurts." Then, when you grow comfortable with giving that much, give a little bit more. We live by faith after all. And on this topic, giving is giving of our whole selves. Not just money. Our time, our connections, our enthusiasm, our homes, our cars, our expertise, our energy. All of these can be given or used in service to give. So, even if you give up all material possessions, you haven't given it all yet: you still have yourself! Keep giving!
So, you can see that there are no "rules" we can write down to truly live the Christian life, but cultures are defined by rules. What is appropriate. What is taboo. What is expected. These rules are turned on their heads because God calls us to more. You have heard it said do not murder, I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister is subject to judgment. This is a rule turned on its head. When each rule is actually a principle, it's no longer black and white. It no longer has the capability of clearly defining. Perhaps it is okay to fight in this war because God commands it, but not this other war. Or perhaps he can fight in this war, but I can't. Perhaps it is both pacifism and aggressive justice? Where is the sense in this? This is not cultural. Cultures cannot exist in this tension.
But where does this revolution start? It starts with the heart. There is no magical Jabez-type prayer that will rocket your life into perfection. There is only a slow, slogging painful journey. But take heart because we're all in this together! This revolution won't be flashy. It's not sexy and it won't make you lose that extra weight you're carrying. It starts with the heart.
When I think about the cultural and religious revolutions of the 17th century, I think they came about because those Anabaptists (and others) were looking for change when they approached the Scriptures. They came to radical conclusions because they were dissatisfied with the status quo. They weren't happy with what the church looked like. Sound familiar? That's how revolutions are started. So, you want a thought revolution? Well, it begins with the attitude of you, dear reader. Unless you are looking for change, I cannot convince you that you need to change. Unless you are truly unhappy with what you are getting from the church, you will not have the motivation to change the church. Unless you desire to live a new life, reading the Bible will not change you. Did I just say that? I did. Unless your heart is right with God, you will not read the Bible clearly. You will justify what you read. You will read the words and not the spirit. Change starts with the heart.
|Caravaggio. "The Conversion on the Way to Damascus"|
We don't need the 10 steps to living a radical life. We don't need a code of conduct for the church. We don't even need blog posts of this nature! What we need is a desire to change accompanied by an honest reading of the Bible, constantly going back to the source and rediscovering how we ought to live. I suppose that means you should leave your computer and go pick up the Bible that's looking a little dusty there. But if you need a bit more motivation, I will likely be posting again on just a few ways I think we need to re-envision our lives and churches.