Contemporary Christianity – Part 1
Posted by Jose Philip on April 26, 2016
It is not uncommon, today, to hear Christians speak of ‘engaging culture’. Yet the voice of the church in the public space has never been more stifled, and with good reason why this is the case. Take a close look at what is happening in the world today and you will be struck by the twin realities of progress and regress. We are getting better at what we do – progress; but are rapidly losing our sense of who we are, and why we do what we do – regress. The troubling thing, however, is that many Christians are either apathetic to or unaware of this dialectic.
Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy tells the story of a pilot who was tragically killed as she was practicing high-speed manoeuvres in her fighter jet. She, says Willard, “turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent – and flew straight into the ground. She was unaware that she had been flying upside down” (Willard, 1998, 1). Progress in the wrong direction is dangerous. We will be worse off tomorrow than we were yesterday if we lose sight of who we are and then perfect what we do. The world is spiralling out of control, and as salt and light it is our mandate to dispel darkness and preserve truth, as God spoke it. The need is great, the mandate is clear, and yet hands to the plough are hard to come by. Here are three reasons as to why this might be the case.
The church has lost sight of her call. We have lost the vision of how ‘Christian living’ is at the heart of human flourishing. This is a connection we do not often make, but we must. God’s call is for human flourishing. God called Abraham to bless him and to make him a blessing (Gen. 12:2-3; 18:18). Even when Israel was exiled, as God’s people they were called to “seek the welfare of the city….” (Jer. 29:4-7). God created us to flourish and the church will do well to remember that, in becoming His body (Eph. 1:23), we are His agents of change and flourishing.
Jesus taught his disciples in the hearing of the people, “You are the light of the world. … let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:14,16). It is important to realize that Jesus demanded both integrity and intention. The virtue we espouse must order our public action, and our public action must ensue in God’s praise. Take this one step further and you will see what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). Christian living is for human flourishing, and when humans flourish all of creation also will.
The church has lost her passion. We live in an age of hype and our hyper-stimulated hearts are no longer able to stand in awe of God in the ordinary. Calloused is one way to describe it. This explains why, for the majority of us, most of what we do on a daily basis has little or no spiritual substance. Take a closer look at what we are told in Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint”. I find the order interesting. Should it not be walk, run, and soar? One would assume that because it takes more to soar, there is a greater need to ‘wait on the Lord’. God did not get the order wrong. The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith when he asked them to forgive the one who had wronged them. They needed no such increase of faith to drive out demons (Luke 17:3-5; 10:1-17). Make no mistake, it takes more “waiting on the Lord”, to walk daily with Christ. It should not surprise us, then, having lost sight of God in the ordinary that our struggle is not the existence of God, but His relevance in our daily lives.
The church has lost her gospel. In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul makes an impassioned plea for reconciliation. He speaks of us as new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), and then points out that as ambassadors for Christ, God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. The good news the church has to offer the world is reconciliation: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Paul was ‘constrained by the love of Christ’ (2 Cor. 5:14), and so he pleaded, ‘be reconciled to Christ’. God’s love, for the most part today in our churches, is falling on deaf ears. We are more concerned with what we can gain from God because he loves us than with what he expects from us, because he loves us. The call to be ambassadors for Christ, calling people to be reconciled with Christ, is unheard.
Progress in the wrong direction is regress, even dangerous. This should help us see why, in spite of all the advancements we have made, the world is just a stone’s throw away from annihilation. When the church walks blindfolded, the world will trip and fall. When the Christian cares very little about waiting on the Lord, and living as an ambassador for Christ, the world will self-destruct.