We live an the age of the sensationalised and catastrophised. Everything is either the greatest ever or the worst ever. Headlines ping pong between two extremes, TV and radio hosts grab for ratings by taking extreme views and being hostile in questioning anyone who disagrees with them. And society is polarised into us and them, right and wrong, good buys and bad guys.
In Corinth one of the problems was that there was too much of the city and it’s culture in the church and I wonder if the same could be said of us. I’ve been struck by the panicked response of many Christians at the erosion of Christian values in our society. I share some of those concerns but I think catastrophising about it doesn’t help anyone. For a start we need to recognise that we have enjoyed a period of tremendous privilege. And secondly we must recognise that biblically and historically that is not the norm.
It wasn’t the norm for the church in the first century, it wasn’t the nom for Jesus, it wasn’t even the norm for God’s prophets in Israel. Prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Elijah would be amazed at the privileges and protections the church has enjoyed in the UK over recent centuries. But I can’t help thinking they would also have some sharp warnings for us.
Just as Israel were lulled and dulled into a functional faith rather than a radical treasure God at all cost faith by life in a largely conquered promised land under godly kings I wonder if they’d warn us that we face the same danger. Have the privileges we enjoyed made us soft? Have they made us expect rights and protections and privileges? Have they dulled the sharp edge of our faith? Has it left us unsure and unable to comprehend what life as one of the bad guys, on the outside might look like? What it looks like to live for Christ on the margins?
I don’t think Christian organisations sensationalising things helps us. It makes us long to maintain our rights and imagine crises befalling the church if we don’t. It makes us think that the hope for the churches growth lies in legal protection not in a radical stand for Christ living, not in following Jesus, denying self, carrying a cross, as we go to the world with the good news. It makes us view the world as us and them.
I’ve been really struck as we’ve begun a series in Matthew 13 that Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom not in it’s glory and power and burgeoning reign now. But it terms of it’s smallness now. In terms of it being treasure worth giving everything for, but also being opposed for. In terms of future hope not over realised hope for now. Jesus doesn’t catastophise. He helps his disciples see when they live and the treasure and privilege that is theirs in seeing the fulfilment of God’s messianic and kingdom promises and treasuring it so they will thrive living in a society that opposes them.
We need to prepare to live life in the margins. Jesus doesn’t call us to have access to the halls and levers of power. He calls his church to serve when opposed, to pray when persecuted, to keep on sharing the good news of the kingdom come even when arrested, put on trial, imprisoned and persecuted. What would it look like to prepare to live like that?
It is right for us to contact MP’s and make representation about our concerns. But we must not catastrophise. Whilst grateful to God for the period of peace and privilege we have enjoyed, we need to stop and consider how it has changed us, softened us, shaped us. And see again the call of Christ, see again the hope of the church is in Christ’s power not in our legal status.