Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Waking Up from the American Dream

A hotly debated issue these days is the relevance of the church in post-modern society. On one side of that argument, there’s a new movement that purports fitting seamlessly in with the world in the name of evangelism. Folk who believe that perspective cite the Apostle Paul as the foremost promoter of relevance, but clearly, Paul never promoted living worldly lifestyles in the name of evangelism. He merely said, more or less, "when you're eating with a heathen eat what the heathen eats." I see no liberty to translate that into watch what they watch, buy what they buy, pursue what they pursue, do what they do. No, we're called to be different.

If our lifestyle looks like the world around us, it’s not a good sign. It means were in sync with the world and out of sync with God. His ways are not mankind's ways, so Christians need to make His ways their ways rather than the world's! If our manner of life looks like the unbelieving world around us, why would any of them buy into the gospel we promote, when they already live exactly the way that we do without the hassle? What point would there be in that case of adding the trappings of religion? Vive la difference!

There's a lot of late in the blogosphere about this very thing, including some especially interesting posts by Dan Edelen and Mark Hadfield. The long and short of it from my perspective: Christians ought to stand out FROM the world even while they live IN the world. Different values, different activities, different dreams. That is in fact what makes evangelism attractive to the world. Once again, vive la difference!

Are you living the different life? If not, why not make a change? What's getting in the way: your suburban palace, the TiVo, the boat in the marina, your investment portfolio, worldly friends, entangling sin, fear? Why not let the hedges grow, sell the boat and buy a well for an African village, coach a Little League team, turn off the TV and spend some time helping the homeless shelter, put your potato chip money into missions, take in an orphan, or even just stop to talk to someone. Isn't it time for us to wake up from the American dream, and to start living God’s?


  1. While there is a lot of truth in what you're saying, we can fall into another pattern of the world by trying to conform to some cultural standard of 'holiness'. We stop living like the world outwardly but our hearts are still not satisfied in God. When we have tasted of God's presence, having the Spirit show us Christ, our appetite for those meaningless things begins to fade away.

  2. Yeah, I know Jul, like what is so popular among celebrities: live apart from Christ, even live like the devil, as long as you're giving something back you're "holy." Christiandom, I think sparked by guilt and competitiveness, often tries to one-up the world in this striving for good karma. For me, sometimes the promotion for some ministries seems all caught up in it as well. It's really a type of works righteousness. You'd think by now we would all know that doing good works doesn't atone for doing bad ones, nor can even mighty works replace a personal fellowship with Christ that is satisfying to the soul (Matthew 7:22-23).

    That being said, God does not want us to ignore the things that have to be done in the name of "spiritual" pursuits either. Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it is time to act on our standing orders: take the gospel to every person, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit prisoners, etc. (Mark 16:15; Matthew 25:31-46) The human race has an endless capacity to deflect and avoid personal responsibility, especially in order to pursue that which is enjoyable and experienced personally. We can even do that with the things of the Spirit. We could well end up sitting on poles chasing our own spirituality rather than engaging in the work around us (it's happened before). Of course, we must be led by the Spirit, but the scripture is there to help us discern what things the Spirit is trying to inspire in us. Knowing this about us, the Spirit inspired things like James 2:14-26.

    I suppose, in the end, it all comes down to I Corinthians 13.


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