I am currently reading Shane Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution,” a book which is really expanding my concept of the kingdom of God and stretching me to ask some pretty tough questions. We heard Shane speak at a conference lately, and felt empowered and convicted by his message. Shane tells of his journey coming from the Bible belt of America and being “born again” six or seven different times at a youth convention (his story is told hilariously and graciously) and then moving on to college where he hoped to experience true Christianity – or at least find out what it was all about. He didn’t find it in the classroom, or with his classmates or professors, however. He found Jesus in the streets. His story stems from there…
Shane’s book has stirred tremendous controversy in Christian circles, but I honestly think if you read the book in maturity, with Shane’s heart in mind, the book is not a call to condemn American Christianity or convince all Christians to sell everything they own and give to the poor. Certainly there are some who chose to do so, and Shane is one of those, but the heart of the book is not to produce more “Shanes” but to produce followers of Jesus who seek to embrace the kingdom of God as Jesus did while he was walking on the soil.
One thing I have learned about following Jesus is that when Jesus is pruning branches, or stirring my heart toward growth, there are multiple occurrences of consistent themes laid on my heart for some time. Lately, God is speaking to me about the poor. God is speaking to JD about the poor too. We felt God speaking to us about the poor (and money) before we went to this conference and before we bought this book. It causes us to reflect, ask hard questions, and pray.
This post may appear vague, because we have no answers yet. We are weeding through questions, ideas, and scripture to discern Jesus’ heart for us in reaction to his call to encounter the kingdom. One of the tremendous impacts of this inner working is how it might affect our ministry. If we are to be making disciples of teens, we must connect them with the Kingdom of God that belongs to the least of these.
I might add here, that if I were to read Claiborne’s book a few years ago, I might be tempted to take his message and run with it radically – making overt changes in my life. I have since grown to understand that living radically for the sake of living radically for Jesus produces as much legalism as obeying a set of moral guidelines for the sake of pleasing God. Therefore, my prayer is that God would fill my heart with compassion and understanding of Jesus’ heart in order to carefully discern the Way Jesus has set for us – knowing and trusting that God will reveal truth in God’s time, and in God’s fullness.
Questions I’m pondering with the Lord:
– If the Kingdom of God belongs to the ‘Least of These,’ how can we full experience the kingdom of God if we do not step outside suburban America – or at leas the comfort of our own homes. How do we do this without checking it off our list of Christian duties – making it a lifestyle rather than ‘works’
– Jesus sent the disciples on their first mission with absolutely nothing. Jesus meant for the disciples to depend on God for everything. Do I depend on God for everything? Probably not. How do we honor God with our money, spend/use/save it wisely (not foolishly), but still depend on God? The quick easy answer is to say that God gives us our paycheck or is the giver and provider of all monetary gifts – which, while true and important to acknowledge, is not entirely consistent with the way Jesus trained his disciples.
– Jesus said no love is greater than laying down one’s life for his/her friends. Jesus did this perfectly – but I wonder, if our definition of “friends” is limited…
– James says caring for the widows and orphans is pure religion (devotion to God). Widows and orphans, taken in historical context (and to some extent our own context now) were those who couldn’t take care of themselves. They weren’t allowed to provide for themselves (especially because women often could not find jobs). Who are those people here? How do we take care of them? How do we do this out of compassion and a livelihood – not out of social charity or obligation?
These are just a few of the questions I’m wrestling through. It is sound, healthy wrestling… driven by peace in my heart and confirmed by the Spirit’s working in JD’s heart as well. We know there are consequences to wrestling through these questions – but I believe God has brought us to a place of understanding… this is a heart issue – not a “fly to a third world country and live there for the rest of your life” issue.
Anyone else struggle through this stuff? Thoughts? Your own inner-workings of Jesus in your heart?