This is the first time in fifteen years that I have taken off the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. With so much time to think and read, I have really enjoyed just pondering and not having to act (at least not immediately). It has been glorious to reflect and to simply spend a few moments thinking about what God is doing in our world.
One of the books I read recently, The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons, had a great quote from an anonymous letter to Diognetus, a Roman scholar who lived between the second and third centuries. It is a description of the Christians of that era:
“They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all men, and by all men are persecuted…They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute and yet they enjoy complete abundance. To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world.”
Oh, that this would be the description of Christians living in this day and age. Far too often we are repugnant to the world around us for all the wrong reasons. I am a firm believer that God’s grace in my life is irresistible, and I long for that grace to be irresistible to others through me. So as we begin a new year, here is a short list of ideas for living as a peculiar people, having the aroma of Christ that others can’t resist:
- Let’s be as passionately pro-adoption as we are militantly anti-abortion.
- Let’s joyfully celebrate the beauty of marriage and the wonder of people created in God’s image while resisting the temptation to use thinly veiled hate speech in condemning those who chose to live in opposition to God’s design for our sexuality.
- Let’s walk in humility, recognizing that while we have been blessed with the gospel of certainty and truth, many hear our words as arrogant and condemning.
- Let’s be intellectually curious rather than frustratingly simplistic as we learn about the world that God created. We have nothing to fear from new scientific discoveries and should take the lead in pursuing new information that will reveal what an incredibly creative God we serve.
- Let’s be openly repentant when we are wrong and not smugly hypocritical, as we are so often accused of being. Three of the most powerful words in the English language are “I am sorry,” followed closely by “please forgive me.” Like Paul, we should strive to be the chief repenters in a world that may view us as soft for admitting fault in any situation.
- Let’s be prophetically independent again rather than naively partisan when it comes to our political views. How ironic it is that Jon Stewart of the Daily Show often speaks more truth to power on his show (to politicians of both parties) than do many churches on any given week.
- Let’s be outrageously generous with our money and time rather than notoriously stingy. Too often waiters cringe when serving Christians because they know that the tips they get will be the smallest on their shift. What would happen if we actually “over-tipped” on occasion?
- Let’s be engaged community servants rather than judgmental bystanders. All too often I walk by the homeless person on the street and silently wonder what bad decisions led to their state in life rather than seriously considering what I could do to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty in our society. Rather than simply complaining about all the high-school dropouts in some of our struggling schools, we can choose to participate as tutors in after school and GED programs. Getting involved is the key; empathy rather than apathy is the motivation. Ultimately, gratitude for the grace we have been shown should lead to grace-filled actions that astound those we come in contact with.
As I wrote this week, I was deeply convicted of my own inadequacies in many of these areas—particularly about being generous, as I have been known to be pretty stingy when eating out. I also realize that the negative perspectives that have been created by some are certainly not true of all. Many of my dear friends are godly examples to me of living every day “as unto Him,” people who desire that others be drawn to the Savior with the same irresistible grace with which they were drawn in the first place. In 2011 I look forward to seeing many more Christ followers living in ways that confound the world for all the right reasons. That includes me, first and foremost.