When I’m gone, or people ask about me, there are a few things that I would hope to come to someone’s mind. One the important ones is that, “first and foremost, I think Christianly”. I suppose what I mean by this is that I hope that everything I do is utterly dominated by my identity as a blood-bought, co-crucified, new-creation, physical member of the kingdom of God. Everything.
The keyword I want to draw your attention to is “physical”.
I think we too often underestimate the claims of the gospel on our lives. Our whole physical lives. My identity as a citizen of Jesus’s inaugurated kingdom cannot merely be deduced to a disembodied faith or sets of beliefs or positions such as a “worldview”. My Christian identity is not a set of lenses I use to view an otherwise neutral or broken world, evaluate truth claims, or decide which political party is aligning itself most with a “Christian worldview” this election cycle. This worldview lens is typically defined by “Christian positions” on things. And in my faith tradition, the imaginative power of these “positions” have been largely reduced to a few key opinions on some very narrow (albeit important) culture wars–abortion, gay marriage, (is euthanasia still a thing? it was in junior high bible class but no one seems to talk about it anymore), a general position on free-markets, etc.
These reductions do not seem to be the dominant position of the New Testament’s ethical claims. The New Testament seems to think that our union with Christ has done something of far greater magnitude than merely “stamping our ticket to ride to the other side.” And it has done even more than provide secondary implications of now needing to equip ourselves with this new “worldview” because now we’re “in the club” and need to wear the swag. The work of the gospel has invited us to inhabit a new country. To be citizens of a new regime that is dominated by the Lordship of Jesus.
The New Testament says that I’ve been made new. That I’m a member (appendage) of the body of Christ. That I’m now a part of a kingdom of priests and a citizen of a holy nation (political language). I am, as Paul says, “new creation”! I’m an alien, a foreigner, a sojourner my current land. My status has literally and physically been made a part of a different kingdom–one that is breaking through into this world here and now. A friend said on twitter this week: “The gospel is not partisan, but it is political”. What he means by “political” is that the body of Christ demands its own set of social norms. Not merely a worldview lens with which to evaluate the world. The Church does not adopt norms… social, liberal, or otherwise. It has its own political identity as a kingdom of priests.
So here’s my point. We are not called to Christian world-viewing. We’re called to Christian world-making.
The difference is subtle but has massive implications. This task requires serious and thoughtful cultivation of Christian imagination. We have to be able to think through the implications laid out in scripture and put them to action in the world in real time! Because we are physical (not merely spiritual) citizens of a different kingdom what sorts of claims do Jesus’s kingdom teaching’s have on my life? I no longer view retirement from a “Christian perspective”. I ask… is there even retirement in God’s kingdom? And what does it mean to sock away 15% of my income on a computer screen in order to watch it magically multiply like Gremlins? What sorts of companies are my investments going to? Our Christian culture seems to be pretty phobic about tax money going near overseas NGO’s that provide abortion services this week. Are we just as concerned about our 401k, pension fund, or IRA, and their connection to businesses or markets with questionable ethical standards? That’s a random example, but I believe that’s how deep we need to begin thinking Christianly.
Our reflection needs to investigate everything. Everything because we are trying to inhabit and behave according to the customs of a different culture than the one surrounding us. Under the Lordship of Jesus, and animated by the Holy Spirit, the Church of Jesus Christ is in the business of new world-making here and now. This world invites refugees to the table. It calls abortion a travesty. It declares public education a good thing for our communities. It upsets both sides of the aisle.
We take eucharist every Sunday as a political act declaring–among other things–the types of values and visions this community (body politic) is oriented around.
“To participate in the Eucharist is to live inside God’s imagination. It is to be caught up into what is really real, the body of Christ.” -Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination
Christians proclaim allegiance to a different kingdom. And our commitment to that kingdom keeps us from proclaiming allegiance to any other doctrine, party, news outlet, creed, or flag. Based on what I’ve seen from the internet over the last year, I think the Church needs to begin using its creative energy imagining what it’s like to be citizens of God’s kingdom.
We need to spend far less energy being stoked to outrage by various news outlets and allegiances to other social bodies. I recently watched a video with Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, and he lays out a helpful framework for the Church to begin differentiating itself from all sorts of perverse American cultures. The video was a prompt for me to write this post. I hope you find it helpful. And I hope you join with me in the amazingly joyful task of “thinking Christianly”.