Has something ever resounded with you in some way and you couldn’t quite put your finger on why? Then when you discovered the source you were kind of disappointed?
Or ever heard a song on the radio, liked it, had it stuck in your head then when you found out which band it was by, hated yourself for liking it in the first place?
This happened to a friend of mine after they read one of my blogs. The ideas in the blog resounded with them, were familiar to them in their own life but then I introduced a three letter word, which they weren’t so keen on.
The ideas I was writing about were ideas about God, but once I actually introduced God into the discussion, a certain weariness crept up. If I am honest I don’t blame my friend because most of the time I am the same. I don’t like Christian things. I squirm at the thought of Christian music or literature or art.
And Christian movies? If only there was a way we could all be just whisked away from them!
There seems to be the thought in much Christian work that we need to use explicit Christian terms. Salvation, fellowship, redemption, quiet times etc. It’s like we are speaking another language sometimes and then we wonder why the church isn’t having the effect we wish it would. We wonder why people don’t have the faintest clue what we are talking about.
Or how about when we tag God onto the start of the ‘secular’ to separate us from the world. So Youtube is no good anymore, we need to use ‘Godtube’. We even have our own Christian tablet, Edifi. Then so to make sure that sinners don’t know that Christians are engaging with dirty sex, we even have our own Christian sex toy stores to fulfill all your Biblical sexual fantasies. It saves the embarrassing conversation when you bump into your pastor in Ann Summers.
Often we are so consumed with the idea of ‘being in the world but not of it’, (and actually while we’re here, where did this idea come from in the first place?) that we separate ourselves from the very people that we are trying to reach. We exclude ourselves from parties because there may be alcohol present, we don’t go to the movies because Avatar is full of demonic references (not because it just wasn’t actually very good) and we invite our friends to watch sporting events at church so we can have a sermon at half time.
We have made it so that truth can only be found in the confines of a church building, in Christian books, in Christian music, in certain beliefs about God and in the safety of Christian culture. When Jesus was alive on Earth He was to be found in the places where He was least expected to be so why do we not expect to still find Him in those places today?
If we believe God is as big as we say He is then we must be open to how God interacts with His creation. All of it. Not just the niche corners we have made His.
This means not hiding from art by artists that aren’t religious, talking about God in a way where the people around us don’t need a dictionary, relating to people’s experiences as fellow human beings and not like Job’s friends, not pretending that being a Christian means never fucking up and not being shocked that a fellow Christian may not actually like the new Hillsong or Matt Redman album.
Something that has really helped me how I should think about my place in the world has been the writing of NT Wright. In his book ‘Surprised by Hope’ he talks about how God plans to redeem all of creation and will one day unite a New Heaven with the new Earth. This does not mean as many of us assume it does that we will fly away somewhere into the sky to float around for eternity. Rather it talks of the time when God will redeem humanity and the Earth fully in a way we can’t even imagine.
This has huge implications for how we think of the world.
It means that what we do now will carry on. God is not waiting to burn the world up and start anew. He is getting ready to redeem this one.
So what does this have to do with how we live on Earth?
Everything, because it means we do not have to separate ourselves from the world. It means we don’t have to use language that is foreign to most people. It means we don’t have to have our own ‘Christian’ versions of things as if we need to start prepping now for being away from the world. It means we are free to love people because they are people land not because we are trying to win their soul so it can escape too.
Mission stops being a trip to Africa or an event we invite our friends to but living selflessly with our neighbours everyday.
Christianity becomes less about knowing the right terms to use but being open to God to reveal Himself in the small interactions as well as the huge big life changing moments.
And God becomes a name we can stop being embarrassed to mention.