Tuesday, 9 December 2014

What are we teaching our children?

Staying is easier than going. When it comes to following Jesus, we are faced with one essential problem, the common human desire for the status quo, difference of any kind is looked at with suspicion and fear.  Staying where we are is easier than going out into the world. As someone with little Christian background except that I was born in Germany and as someone who came to know Christ later in life, I perhaps have a different perspective on many ''traditional'' thinking of people who have attended church most of their lives.  For me, church provided a counter-narrative to what I witnessed, experienced and essentially participated in. Church helped me to go to a different vantage point and to look at the world from a different perspective.  But like so many formerly oppositional institutions, the congregations I encountered over the years tend to become more a symptom of the culture than an antidote to it, they are not living a different story. And by doing that we are giving the people of the world one less place to turn for a sober alternative to the story of basic human goodness and moral progress that is propagated everywhere.

What are we teaching our children? 

God is love; and as evident on the cross it is self-sacrifice rather than self-preservation. Love, as the Bible defines it, is sacrificial. This, however, threatens our tendency to protect ourselves. We are afraid to give because we are afraid of being taken. Through our experiences we have come to expect that love is first something we get from others in return for something before it is something we give others for nothing. Love has become even within the church conditional and is no longer sacrificial.

Worldliness is seductive, it is a sleepiness of our thinking in which the statues, pleasures, comforts and cares of this world appear solid, stunning, and purpose giving while the truth of God's word abstractions, unable to grip us emotionally nor intellectually or guide our everyday activities. The greatest challenge for a Christian is therefore not persecution but seduction. 
I used to be a missionary in the late 90th in Sierra Leone, a small country with much riches. When I returned home I experienced what is called a culture shock. It is caused when one set of cultural assumptions clashes with another, when what seams normal to people in one cultural setting seems uncomfortably strange, even questionable in another. After a while, however, the shock went away. Over time I gradually and unnoticeable to myself I settled into the old assumptions and mannerism of the culture around me, the shock gave way to submission. When the world's thinking, feeling and living seem normal and God's ways seems strange, we need to hear that we have been seduced because we are blind to that fact. In this sense, disciples of Christ are in a permanent state of shock in relation to the acceptable ways of the world; "tension with the world must never give way to comfort in the world."

What are we teaching our children? 

We need to remember that while Jesus never went after the crowed, never sought fame but he was seeking for disciples. And to get the disciples he wanted, he explained to the crowed of followers that anyone who wanted to truly follow him would need to count the cost, and the crowed thinned out. Daily Christian living, according to Jesus, means daily Christian dying -- dying to our goals, dreams, hopes unless they are not of this world. We need to die to our fascination to fit in and instead becoming "fools for Christ," living with an hopeful attitude.

Hope is a continual looking forward to the eternal world and is neither a form of escapism or pessimism.  Hope is not wishful thinking either, but one of those things that are second nature to a Christian.  A Christian cannot but hope.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is, rather the very opposite is true.  Hope affirms and proclaims that however beautiful a sunset might be some more beautiful sunset is still to come but not in this life. In this sense hope is a godly discontent about the present, it is affirming that the glass is half full and more is still to come. As many before me I too refer to C.S. Lewis thoughts on this matter;

"The Christian Way.-The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, then; is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.’"

How are we doing with that? Since Scripture affirms that this particular hope is somewhat outside of reach here and now many people have turned to achievable things and by that to earthly things. We only need to look at obituaries over the centuries . . . how we describe the life and identity of a loved one. In the past, God, seeking God and the life through the church were the focus of identity, it than changed to work and became more individualistic focused, and now we read much much more about entertainment and travel and enjoying life. God is hardly mentioned.

What are we teaching our children?

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