Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christianity: The Movement for Change or the Boredom of Ritual?

Christianity isn't a set of irrelevant rules and boring rituals. That isn't Christianity. To be a follower of Jesus - to be a Christian - means joining a movement that seeks to change the world. It's about living according to the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and teachings of Jesus. It's about working for a world that's more inclusive, compassionate, fair, etc. It's about embodying the Kingdom of God in our daily lives. In the end, Christianity is meant to be radically exciting and shockingly relevant.

In the past couple days I've come across two videos that describe the radical implications of Christianity. The first is by Tony Campolo and the second is by Brian McLaren. Both of these guys describe the Christianity as being primarily concerned with bringing about change in our world by living out the Kingdom of God in our lives. It's good stuff.

Tony Campolo talks about the Kingdom of God being spread out upon our world, here and now. It's not just pie in the sky when you die. It's about bringing about God's desires and will "on earth as it is in heaven." The Kingdom of God is meant to be a present reality. Tony points to Isaiah 65:20 as a vision of what the Kingdom of God could look like in our world. This text says: "No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed." Tony then talks about how the Kingdom of God in our world would mean that there would not be thousands of infants dying every day because they lack food, clothing, housing, and health care. In the Kingdom of God - here on earth - there will be no more children who will die in infancy. Tony adds this challenge: "The Kingdom of God will change us - not into pietistic religionists that seek to escape from the world, but into agencts of social change...who will change the world into the vision that God wants it to be." We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing about a better world for all God's children with our hands and feet. The Kingdom is now if we would only choose to embody and incarnate it.

Brian McLaren also talks about how the Kingdom of God is meant for our world, here and now. Brian says: "Jesus didn't come to tell us how to get to heaven after we die, primarily, he came to talk to us about how the Kingdom of heaven can happen here on earth. While we are here. And our children and grandchildren are here." The Kingdom of God spreads whenever we choose to act in ways that are in accordance with God's vision for us and our world. The Kingdom of God happens through us each time we care for the poor, work for peace, protect God's Creation, etc. Brian says, "Jesus said things like if you give someone a cup of cold water in my name; if you see someone in prision and you go visit them; if you see someone who is naked and you give them clothing; if you welcome a little child - in those moments God's will is being done on earth. Because God cares about that little child. God cares about that forgotten person in prison." Whenever we use our time, money, voice, and vote to help bring about God's vision for our world, we are being a citizen of God's Kingdom. By living our lives according to the teachings of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets, we allow God to spread the Kingdom of God through our lives. We join a movement that seeks to bring about the change we really can believe in. And that has nothing to do with irrelevant rules or boring rituals. It has to do with transforming the world.

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