Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Fascinating Witness

Several years ago I read a preacher’s observation that college students were eagerly devouring a book by Shane Claiborne called, “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical.” Claiborne’s book has been described as mixing “evangelical zeal” with “grassroots activism,” and indeed his philosophy is compelling. In short, he calls American Christians to a faith in Christ that moves beyond “private piety with affluent conformity,” beyond our “safe Jesus” into the world alongside the least and the lost.

I found the book quite inspiring, and was particularly intrigued by how it resonated with teenagers and young adults who are hungry for more than just “go to church” Christianity. I got that message loud and clear.

Recently Esquire magazine asked Claiborne to write a short article addressing those who don’t believe. Following are some excerpts:

* The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to believe.

* I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of the Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God’s Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” On earth.

* I have a friend in the UK who talks about “dirty theology”—that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits on it, and wipes it on a blind man’s eyes to heal him (the priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day). In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay “out there” but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, “Nothing good could come.”… This is why the triumph of the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.

* It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors… a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.

I need to hear words like this. They remind me that I follow Jesus as I roll up my sleeves and enter into the hurt and pain and messiness of peoples’ lives.
They remind me that as much and as often as I want to choose the “safe” path, that is not usually where Jesus goes.
They remind me that discipleship with Christ takes me into the world, not out of it, and that this is part of the fascinating witness of the Jesus who redeems the dirty.


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