Welcome back! My apologies for a day delay in getting to this post. It’s been a busy first week of 2015. One with far too little sleep. However, without further delay, it’s time to review the next chapter in New Monasticism, “God’s Plan to Save a the World Through a People.”
He begins by exposing a difficult reality of modern Christianity. I would agree that we have a skewed view of God’s directives. We get Jesus. We get the concept that salvation comes through accepting the gift that comes from His life, death and resurrection, but when it comes to how we live out that new life from there we start to miss it. I like the illustration he used of playing the wrong game. Let me give a quick recap for those who are not reading along.
He names the two games most Christians are playing. The first is “Make Myself”, and the second is a great companion game called “Make Yourself”. These games read scripture as a self help or rule book that gives you the guidelines for a holier life. It is like a road map to pleasing and following God. At first glance, that seems right. and it is partly right. It’s just not completely right. As for me, I know that I grew up with that perspective and have lived most of my life playing those games. Some seasons have been more successful than others, but it’s a hard and often disappointing game. So, if that’s not what scripture is pointing to, then what are all those imperative ‘you’ statements about? The author gives us an idea when he points to an eye opening fact regarding our translation of scripture. Most of those statements that begin with “You” (or “Ye” if your toting about a KJV) are, in fact, plural, and would be better read as “Y’all”. They are statements given to the community of believers, the church, and not simply individuals. For example, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” would more accurately be read as “Y’all are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14) That truth is quite literally game changing.
With that premise in mind, the author takes us to the Old Testament and God’s calling out of a peculiar people. He points to the Abrahamic Covenant and God’s promise to make Abraham a nation that He will use to bless the world. Israel was called out to be an example of community with God and others that would be a enticing testimony to the world. In that light, the laws make great sense as guidelines for life with God and life together. This also fits very much in line with the greatest commandments. Love God. Love others. Everything else stems from and is a fulfillment of those two primary laws. But Israel ultimately didn’t keep the law, and, as they turned from God and to their own ways, they failed to fulfill God’s purpose of reaching the world through a peculiar people. They had become like the world.
So we turn the page to the New Testament and a new covenant. It begs the question, did God change the game? I agree with the author that He did not. He still intends to bless the world through a peculiar people who display love, living in relationships with God and one another. I am immediately reminded of John 13:35 – “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV) More than anything, love is the mark of God’s people.
If this is true, then was should it look like? I am glad that the author does not bend on the necessity of community, but also leaves it open to the many ways it can be experienced. In other words, a neomonastic approach is not the only way to live out Christian community. It was good for me to hear his optimism regarding local church’s attempts to meet the need for community in our present church model. I am admittedly somewhat jaded from my own experiences, and that is the very reason I needed to hear someone else with positive regard for our imperfect attempts to foster community in today’s American churches.
I pray we become the embodiment of God’s heart for community and life together in this world. That in itself is one way we’ll experience and display God’s will for all people expressed in The Lord’s Prayer. “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
True Christian community is a little picture of Heaven on Earth.
Grace and Peace,