Recently I’ve been thinking about a new phrase that’s been floating around on bumper stickers and such that says “Live where you are”, or something to that effect. Mainly it’s a feel-good notion that suggests living in the moment and exacting positive changes to your environment. This idea has trickled into supporting local business, local government, local artists, local schools, local parks, local farmers, etc.
I struggle with this concept for a couple of reasons. The first is that I am not content with our location at this point in time (more on this in another blog). Our plan was never to settle in Memphis, but eight years and three kids later, we are still here. On a few occasions, we thought it was time to move on, but the more we try to make plans, the more they are thwarted. Maybe one day it will happen, and we continue to look forward to that day, but for now we are trying not to get our hopes up.
The second reason is that I know that this earth is not our permanent home and that we are expected to long for our heavenly dwelling. And I do. The older I get, the more I can’t wait for that promise to be fulfilled. How can I be attached to this temporary, broken, fallen world? In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
But Kingdom-Mindedness is not about waiting around for something; it’s about acting like it’s already here. It is about living day-to-day, but not in a begrudging way. It’s about appreciating the opportunities that come along, and getting watch as God does a miraculous work in you and through you and around you.
So let me ask: Do you recognize the transforming power of Christ in your life and in your community? It’s there. Even in a crime-ridden, poverty-stricken city like ours, it is alive and thriving. It may not be obvious, it may not be what makes the news, it may only affect a handful of people, but it is there. Are you a part of it?
To make it more personal, do you care about the people around you? Not because of what they can do for you, or because you feel guilty for feeling otherwise, but because they are people, created in the image of God? What about when they disagree or fight with you? When they have different values or adhere to a different set of standards? When they annoy you or take advantage of you? When they harm you or persecute you? When they lie or gossip about you? When they threaten you or steal from you? Are you still able to love them?
And here’s another thing: Don’t expect your church/clergy to do all the heavy lifting. Don’t shrug off responsibility because you gave at the office or paid your tithe or put together that Christmas gift basket for someone you don’t know. Don’t think your work is done because your week-long-urban-renewal-project is over, or your hour at the soup kitchen is up.
Let me take it further: Don’t think you’re off the hook because you surround yourself with a bubble of Christian sub-culture. How can you even begin to think that it is appropriate to flee to an immaculate suburban lifestyle when there is so much need at the opposite end of the spectrum? What purpose does it serve to horde your finances or disperse them on a self-indulgent lifestyle when people are hurting and hungry just down the street? Why do we bother to teach our children about Biblical principles if we are just going to fortify them in a private Christian school? PLEASE TELL ME HOW AN INSTITUTION THAT CALLS ITSELF A CHURCH CAN JUSTIFY A BUDGET OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND DEFILE ACRES OF LAND WITH ABOMINABLE STRUCTURES AND PAID FULL-TIME STAFF!
It is a foul stench and a poor excuse for a sacrifice. The command is pretty straightforward: “One thing you lack,” [Jesus] said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” -Mark 10:21b (NIV)
Why is this so difficult for us, myself included? Why are we so obsessed with luxury and comfort and safety? Has God promised us those things? Do we even have a right to them? Does it matter? Where is our focus? Why do we worry?
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:22-34 (NIV)
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” – Galatians 5:13-15 (MSG)
Next Time: Exact Change pt.5 – “Go Global”