Like a bucket of ice water…

Owen Strachan threw some cold water at some thoughts this week by biblically looking at how we serve and what level of significance we place on our own work in caring for those around us.

While his tone is strong and definitive, the issue may not be so clear, but it is an honest take that the “radical” selfless church needs to meditate on.

The post is lengthy and my selective quoting will do it a disservice but I do want to highlight a couple of areas that I think we need to hear clearly.

The same idealism and passion that swells the hearts of young politicos stirs in the chest of young Christians.  Having pushed away, at least in principle, from big-box, cookie-cutter, megachurchdom, we have warmed to an activist, nonjudgmental Christianity that soars with hope and promise.  We can end sex trafficking, we are told; we can transform the political scene; we can end world hunger in this generation; we can right the wrongs of the historic church, one state-fair confession booth at a time; we can correct the heinousness of the Religious Right and win our progressive friends to the faith; we can reclaim the life and practice of the early church; we can reconstruct the American polisthrough soup kitchens and after-school mentoring; we can rediscover the secret of true community through monastic living; we can dial down the fire-breathing tone of past evangelists and win our friends, in massive numbers, through gentle conversation; we can turn back whole denominations and movements from heterodoxy and faithlessness; we can plant churches by the bushel and they will all succeed and flourish; we can complete, like a bulleted check list, the momentous task of evangelizing all the people of the world in this generation; we can create culture that is so beautiful, so stirring, so epic that people simply will not be able to turn away from it and deny the faith that fuels it but will embrace it in a great wave that will break over the art galleries and cinemas and coffeehouses of the upculture bohemians.

In our time we allow culture to define too much in the way we live our faith and Strachan recognizes here that the desire for optimism has bled into the way we see service. Having spent a lot of time int he NGO world I know first hand the messaging that “we can change the world,” mostly because that is what I told people as a communicator. And maybe the is some truth to that idea but is our purpose to create this change or present new hope and truth in the Gospel?

Strachan goes on to call on us to realize the idealism that is shaping Christianity and then put that on the filter of truth in order to respond well to it.

But let’s stop for a moment.  Despite the long catalog of evangelical accomplishments over the centuries, have we turned back the curse?  Have we ended suffering?  Have we beat back sin?  No.  Only Jesus can do these things.

Does this mean that I am saying that we should throw our arms in the air and just give up?  By no means.  Never.  We are charged to give our all to the cause of the gospel.  We are called to be relentlessly idealistic in a Christocentric fashion, to trust in Him and then work with all our might to win the lost, be the church, and live transformed lives in a sinful world.  This means disciplined stewardship, focused partnership, sacrificial friendship, constant vigilance against sin, continual rededication to the mission, stepping out in nothing but faith to try great things for God.

Strachan finishes with our defining truth.

Jesus has won; Satan is defeated; victory is sure.  The kingdom is advancing as the gospel is advancing (praise God!).  Christians, filled with a love for the Lord and a sense for how He blesses radical faith, are attempting great things for Him.  May that only continue.  But we need to do so not with a naive optimism, with a worldly hope that is set, like a swelling balloon, to pop, but with a rich blend of complete trust in our Lord and Savior and full awareness of our own finitude and our world’s depravity.

This was certainly a kick I needed to send me searching in response to my own idealism. How is idealism apart from the Gospel shifting how we live our faith? Should we combat that?

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