Readers of this blog know that I write about down-to-earth subject matter. More than just about anything, I hope to see the Kingdom of God increasingly oust the kingdom of this world (and its chthonic ruler).
But it strikes me as odd that so many of us American Christians, as much as we assimilate the world’s methods of operation and thinking, still erect sacred/secular divides. Many of us think nothing of spending an entire weekend browsing for yet more stuff at the local mall, but should anyone talk of helping the world’s poor find economic justice, that poor soul gets branded as a minister of the “social gospel” or part of some sect of Christianity somehow gone to theological seed.
I guess I don’t understand the hypocrisy of the typical heavenly-minded suburban Christian loading up her shopping cart with pre-Black-Friday deals that only tie her to the world, then having her say, “You’re taking your eyes off Jesus if you talk about fighting for people’s jobs.” Talking about earthy truths somehow can’t be viewed as having any relevance to the Church’s ultimate mission.
Yet I can’t read the Bible as some kind of gnostic document that imagines the physical world doesn’t exist. Most of the Law consists of bringing truth into the everyday earth-bound problems people faced. I can’t read the compelling tales of the early Church in action and not see that right away they’re addressing the down-to-earth problems of simple people. So the Hellenists complain that their widows aren’t getting the same attention as the rest. Do the apostles blow them off as social gospel advocates or worldly advocates of taking one’s eyes off Jesus to stare at the mundane? No, they do something about the problem.
Hey, I can pray for hours on end if need be, but come Wednesday night, I still must take a garbage can down to the curb. I can’t pretend while in some spiritual swoon that I can just forget about paying my taxes. As much as Jesus might love me, I’d still wind up in jail for tax evasion. And I’m sure that instead of being immaterial, those cold, steel bars would feel plenty solid in my hands.
Jesus didn’t think it was too smart to build one’s house on sand, and I’m sure His hearers agreed, even if they didn’t initially get the deeper spiritual point being made. That parable of the heavenly world makes sense only because Jesus tied it to the earthbound world. In fact, Jesus perpetually ties the spiritual and secular together. He Himself embodies the dissolving of the sacred/secular divide. He is the God Man.
I’m sorry, but when I hear people superspiritualizing Christianity, disconnecting it from its dust-laden incarnation, it makes me want to scream. I don’t get how people can spend all weekend in church, pray and read the Bible for hours on end, drop Jesus into every conversation they have with the lost, yet somehow think it’s too worldly to consider helping the down-and-out neighbor family get their car fixed.
I’m making no apologies: I’ll expose that kind of hypocrisy every opportunity I get.
It’s not enough to think we’ve got our vertical relationship (with God) down pat. We’ve got to get the horizontal one (with people) fixed, too. And being horizontal means that we graciously fix the problems here on this skubalon-encrusted world—and we do that fixing in Jesus’ name armed with Holy Spirit power.
As we go into the week of Thanksgiving, just what are we thankful for? God knows that I am thankful for Jesus and all He did for me and for you. I’m thankful as all get-out for every spiritual truth God surrendered His Son to live and die for. I’m thankful that Christ embodies all that I can every want or need. But I’m also thankful for the wooden roof over my head and the clothes in my drawer. I thank God for the flesh-and-blood woman He saw fit to give me and the little package of snips, snails, and puppy-dog tails that is my son. I thank Him for the land outside the four walls of this house, land that provides us food, and reminds me in its tree-pounding woodpeckers, slimy-cool salamanders, and sky-tickling walnut trees that God is Creator and King of All.
And I thank God that He saw fit not to take me up to heaven in a fiery chariot the second I placed my faith in Jesus. He has a mission for me here. Sometimes that mission will include helping a lost person find his way to salvation in Christ. Sometimes that mission will find me pounding a nail in the frame of a house destined for someone who couldn’t afford a home unless Christians like me stepped in and made it possible. It means I get to pray on behalf of a brother. And it means that the prayer I pray may be that this brother and his wife find more opportunities to get away from the kids so they can get wild in the sack without interruption. It may even mean my wife and I watch those kids to make that possible.
I can be a holy man of God by being an earthy man of God. There is no distinction:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
—2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Church, this week, manifest Jesus to someone else. And do so any way that seems right by the Holy Spirit’s leading.
I’ll be taking the rest of the week off from blogging. See you all here on Monday the 26th. May our Lord bless you abundantly this Thanksgiving.