"to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faithin me." Acts 26:18

Friday, October 10, 2014

Radical as Ordinary

I will stop trying to live a so-called “radical” life when…

...I start seeing grandmas begin to bring fat grandbabies to church, rather than their seven month old grandbabies who weigh less than 10 pounds. 
...When these babies, whose mothers died during childbirth, are able to get more than one cup of milk a week. 
...When I no longer need to attend the funeral of a 12 year old who died from a treatable disease and watch her be laid in the ground wrapped in nothing more than a white sheet. 
...When my children don’t come home dirty from church because they sat on the dirt floor of the sanctuary. 
...When the hydrocephaly rates in East Africa drop because babies aren’t being born into houses where the walls are covered in cow dung. 
...When the American church is not only praying for more laborers to harvest the fields in obedience to Luke 10:2, but also pouring out money to send them.
...When the kids in the Reformed churches here are able to receive not just an education (where they actually learn to read, write and do math), but also a Christian education.
...When local pastors are able to be given a salary, so that they don’t have to work full time while trying to shepherd a church. 
...When I see evidences of “ordinary” Christians in America living with a war-time mentality more than I see pictures of Pumpkin Spice Lattes on my Facebook news feed.  
...When all the children in our reformed churches here have at least one pair of shoes to protect their feet from permanent deformity due to jiggers laying eggs in and eating their flesh.
...When babies in our reformed churches are no longer dying of Malaria simply because their parents couldn’t come up with $4 to transport them to a clinic.  
...When the elderly widows do not have to be “blind elderly widows” because they have access to cataract surgery. 
...When men, who are called to be pastors, don’t have to choose between providing for their family and attending seminary. 
...When the kids are no longer filling their stomach with nutritionally empty cassava during hunger season, just so they don’t have to sleep with the pangs of hunger filling their swollen bellies. 
...When all of the members of our churches have easy access to something as simple as clean water.

This part of the reality of life in Uganda and many other places will only cease when all Christians make these things a part of their reality and make doing something about it an “ordinary” part of life.  Then, and only then, will we be able to stop calling it “radical.”

Oh, that the average reformed Christian in America would make it a part of their reality.  But too often, they don’t.  So the problems remain.  If we take an honest look at the church in America, there is too high of a percentage of members that remain in an “ordinary” life that rarely looks beyond the church doors, let alone beyond the American borders.  It assumes that poverty equals laziness.  It spiritually justifies giving minimal amounts of money, claiming that it hurts the poor.  It is content to lead a nice, socially acceptable, pleasing life in the suburbs.  Go to work.  Go to school.  Go to church.  Give your tenth.  Save for retirement.  Make sure you relax because life is stressful.  Entertain yourself.  Protect your health.  Be safe.  Vote conservatively.  Don’t get too crazy or extreme.  Don’t make others feel uncomfortable.  Definitely, don’t lower your standard of living so that you can give more.

It is because this is “ordinary” Christianity for most people, that authors like David Platt, are left to use the word “radical” (meaning “beyond ordinary”) when encouraging Christians to live as Christ desires them to live.  If the average Christian in America truly loved others around the world as they love themselves, there would be no need to use the word “radical.”  We could stick to words like “ordinary.”

Being “radical” is not legalism.  Those of us who choose to, God helping us, live this way are not doing it to earn our salvation or gain points with God or ease the guilt of our sin.  For us, it is a form of love not law.  We believe that God called us to love our neighbors, no matter where they live, as ourselves.
 
...If my children have milk twice a day, I want my neighbors to have it. 
...If my children have shoes, I want my neighbors to have them. 
...If my church in America doesn't worship on a dirt floor, I don’t want the church here to. 
...If I don’t have cow dung on my walls, I don’t want my sisters to. 
...If I can get my children to the hospital whenever they need it, I want my brothers to be able to. 
...If our growing family was financially supported through my husband’s seminary years, I want to support more men’s families through theirs. 
...If I can turn on a tap and get clean water, I want my sisters to be able to turn on a tap and get clean water. 
...If I can provide a Christ centered solid education for my children, I want the families in our churches here to be able to provide that for their children. 
...If I am thankful for and benefited spiritually by my husband and most pastors in America having a salary so that they can devote themselves completely to the work of the church, I want my brothers and sisters here to have that too. 

Is this not just fruit of the gospel?  Oh that this were ordinary fruit!  Oh that no one felt the need to call it radical!  Oh that these desires were daily on the hearts of God’s people!

I know it's hard, y'all.  I have many days that I would rather give up and go home and huddle in a dark corner somewhere stuffing my face with finely shredded Colby-Jack cheese (yes, that was what I found myself literally dreaming about a few weeks ago).  But when God tells us that we are saved to do good works, he promises to provide all that we need to be sustained over the long haul.  And while I certainly haven't arrived nor am I perfect in my attempts, I have been blessed to see his provision over and over and over again in my own life as I've tried to serve him in deeper ways...from the strength to love a child that didn't love me to the strength to love both in spirit and in as many tangible ways as we possibly can, a people and culture that were unlike anything I had known before.  He has never failed, not once.  And he will never cease to bring those that he loves and knows to be "dust" through any task that he would like us to do.  And the best part?  He gets all the glory then...from the call to serve, to the physical means to serve, to the emotional means to serve, to the spiritual means to serve...it becomes all of him!  And isn't that just what my chief goal in life should be anyway...to glorify him?

And I would warn those who are calling the people who live with this reality before them “legalists.”  Be very careful to not squelch the work of the Holy Spirit.  Be very careful to not stop brothers and sisters from following the second greatest commandment that is so very similar to the first.  If you feel like someone is in error, go to them privately.  Do not smear a movement across the internet and in your writing so as to give the “ordinary" church in America yet another excuse to stop giving and working.  The church is in far more danger of doing too little than they are of doing too much.

It is my prayer that anyone who reads this will make this kind of love their “ordinary.”  It is my prayer that you will be so enraptured by the glory of God as shown to you through the gospel of Jesus Christ, that you will overflow in love for your brothers and sisters in Christ no matter what color they are, where they live, or if you will ever meet them on this side of eternity.  It is my prayer that you will truly begin to comprehend what it means to love others as you love yourself.  It is my prayer that you will be so filled with the Holy Spirit that you will be attuned to his promptings to give when and how he calls you to give.


Remember, that as you do it for the least of these, Christ will see you as doing these works to Him and you will by no means lose your reward.  Christ loving us enough to reward us?  Now that is radical love!

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