11 March 2011

How We Are Defined

Most of us know the feeling of exhilaration when we are part of a large group united against a common enemy. There’s a certain energy elicited. It’s exhilarating. There is a certain “high” we feel as we all have something to fight against. It is always easier to unite a community around a common enemy than cultivate goals together that will create a preferred future. This is a personality of cultures – it’s incredibly easy to organize a people against a common enemy. This modus-operandi has infiltrated the church. As an organized church we’ve been increasingly defining ourselves over-and-against others. We have made it our mission to make the central focus of being a Christian; what we are against.

This dynamic however has a shelf life and the current church has not seemed to figure it out. The church consistently attempts to define itself by what it’s against. We cannot lead a community this way without constantly keeping the threat of the “others” preeminent. If we somehow don’t have enemies, then we must invent them or else the community will have nothing to get excited about. This kind of church culture works off an antagonistic energy. The continual enmity is fatiguing. It does not give life. It does not nurture spiritual transformation (Love is... 1 Corinthians 13). It has nothing at its core to hold us together.

American politics is full of this dynamic. I fear in these last few years that evangelicalism is showing signs of behaving in these same ways. I fear the church of my upbringing, the church that I love is picking up bad behaviors from our political environment. We are often taught our beliefs as the means to differentiate ourselves from those who don’t believe. We learn our theology of “being Christian” by who (or what) we are against. We find our sense of ego or status because of what we don't do. The world is watching as we become predictably defensive, argumentative and alarmist. Within the church we are making "enemies" and "heretics" out of anybody that does not talk like us and think like us.

What I believe is the gravest result in all the shouting back and forth; is the loss in what it truly means to follow Jesus and what it means to live for His present Kingdom. The story of God (what He is authoring on this earth) is all but a lost plot for most church goers. They don’t know what to tether their lives to. With all the clutter and noise we generate about what we're against, we don’t know what our King Jesus is for. I’m willing to bet that the world around us can guess what we hate and dislike but will probably have a hard time identify who and what we LOVE. This generation needs to see and hear a strong dose of the “fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). I contend we need discerning and passionate churches that intentionally reclaim our identity as people “for” something greater, higher, deeper, more costly and more compelling.

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