In my last post I wrote: Until I’m willing to see both the idolatry and insufficiency of the present “McWorld” system, I’ll also fail to see the radically hopeful nature of the gospel, which provides an exit strategy from these false hopes as it invites us into so much more than a ticket to heaven.
Assuming that I do see the insufficiency of the present worldview (no matter who’s in power), only clears the deck of false hopes. It deconstructs. It exposes. And, if left alone, creates a generation of cynics and nihilists, who might well see the gods of consumerism as the destructive idols they are, but lack the moral imagination to offer any alternative. The results aren’t pretty, as indicated by declining marriage and birthrates, and rises in rates of addictive and destructive behaviors. We need compelling alternatives.
This, for me, is what makes the Gospel so compelling. Far from being some sort of limp, ‘get out of hell for free’ card, the central theme of the gospel is that in a world of failed narratives, God is inviting people to join Him in writing a better story, a robust, life giving alternative, on the pages of history. Participants in this story take seriously God’s declaration that, in the resurrected Christ, a new world has begun because a new king and kingdom are now present. It was the new king himself who reminded us of the important principles that will help us live into this far better story:
1. You can only have one allegiance - Jesus was clear that you can’t serve two masters, that Jesus can’t be your King and Ceasar also. The entire New Testament is full of guidance about how to live in the midst of one kingdom while maintaining a clear and unswerving loyalty to another, higher, eternal King. The notion that we can live in a paradigm of Jesus + Capitalism, or Jesus + Nationalism, or Jesus + Socialism, is entirely false. No “ism” will ever bow to Christ, because all “isms”, from Adam Smith to Karl Marx declare themselves to be final solutions. And in every case they fail to deliver. So we vote, we participate in the civic world, as much as possible we obey civic authorities and pray for them. But we know better than to believe that a change in parties is any sort of solution.
2. You should only have one obsession -When Jesus said “don’t worry about tomorrow” he used a word for worry that means “to be divided”, which is a way of saying that when we’re trying to find our role in the story of hope God is writing in the world, AND we’re also trying to buy into the pursuit of the consumerist American dream, or any other dream, we’ll be hopelessly divided, and the results will not be pretty. Like an artist obsessed with his subject (as I write about in the Colors of Hope), we must pay close attention to the values of the kingdom so that we can make them visible on the canvass of our lives. When we do this, the colors of generosity, justice, celebration, simplicity, joy, hospitality, bleed together creating a unique expression of Christ in each of us. When we do this together… it’s called church.
3. You’re an artist – so get on with it. The best reasons to believe are, for me anyway, always rooted in the colors of hope I see painted on the canvass of other lives. Whether it’s Gahigi in Rwanda and the countless stories in the stunning book, “As We Forgive”, or beautiful lives like Sophie Scholl‘s or Paul Brand‘s, I know that the pages of history are painted with the colors of hope. Those colors exist as a foretaste of a world that will, someday, burst forth with these colors painting over all injustice, and oppression, and rape and violence, and environmental degradation.
That’s a world I want to be a part of it and the incredible news is that world has begun already, and I’ve a role to play, by being a unique expression of hope. Finding that expression and living into it is the only thing that matters. So, even though it’s an election year, I’m not losing sleep over who wins, because the reality is that, whoever’s in power, I serve a different, better king, one who, as Handel reminds us: “…shall reign forever and ever” To which I can only respond: Hallelujah!
IMPORTANT: I happy to share that my book “The Colors of Hope” won Christianity Today’s selection for Best Book 2011, in the “Christian Living Category”. It’s FREE ON MAY 1st as a kindle download, and the study guide is free here (it makes a great group study) Enjoy! And please share the news with your friends.