Monday, December 6, 2010

Radical (and Steve Carell)

"Taking back your faith from the American Dream" is the tagline of the book Radical by David Platt. I recently read it because- well, because it was free. My dad preached a series to go along with the book and somehow a copy ended up on my counter.

I had a lot to stew on as I went through the book. Specifically I was reading what Platt had to say about God creating us. He cites the verse "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'" Gen. 1:28
Platt says, "God gave his people his image for a reason- so that they might multiply his image throughout the world. he created human beings, not only to enjoy his grace in a relationship with him, but also to extend his glory to the ends of the earth."

I was nodding and skimming at this point- yes, yes, I know that God loves us and his purpose is that we glorify Him. It was a few pages later during Platt's application that I stopped in self-examination. Bear with me as I quote:

"If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of "The message of Christianity is that God loves me." ... "The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me." ... "God loves me" is not the essence of biblical Christianity. Because if "God loves me" is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?
God loves me.
Christianity's object is me.
Therefore when I look for a church, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family. When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best of me and my family... This is the version of Christianity that largely prevails in our culture.
But it is not biblical Christianity.
...The message of biblical Christianity is "God loves me so that I might make him- his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness- known among nations." Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him. We are not the end of the gospel; God is.

There is more explanation (including emphasis that God does love us deeply, unquestionably) but I'll let you pick up the book if you want more than the gist.
How often do I remember that I'm designed to be a little mirror walking around this corner of the world- not looking good so people say, "Man, Shilo sure looks good" but with the purpose of reflecting the image of my Maker?

I am looking with fresh eyes at ways that I- and my culture- attempt to "Christianize" the American Dream.
To emphasize these thoughts, S. and I were channel flipping the other night and watched part of the movie "Evan Almighty." (Now, I'm a Steve Carell fan but I don't typically go to him for spiritual insight.) There is a part in the movie where God is calling him to build an ark and in the process everyone thinks he's gone crazy. He's suspended from his job in Congress and his wife can't handle it. She essentially says, "You really think God would have us move here, have you lose your job, have our "stuff" threatened and lose our reputations?!" She's indignant that God would do any such thing.

S. was gracious as I began spouting off over top of the movie dialogue. "Isn't that true!? Don't we question that God would make us do something that would threaten the American Dream? Surely God won't make me give my stuff up?! God won't let me move down the corporate ladder. God loves me! If God loves me then certainly that only leads to blessing, to healing, to respect. He wants me to overwork, too- He knows that I need a nest egg. He wants me to have the things I enjoy."

I suppose if it's about me then that is where it ends. Yet if it truly ends with God and the revelation of His might not always look the way we imagine. Often it does lead to healing, to blessing, to respect. But I don't think Steve Carell's wife (I call her Lorelai Gilmore- seriously...have I resorted to getting my insights from the Gilmore girl?) recalled that Jesus called the disciples to abandon their jobs. They looked crazy for the duration of their lives to onlookers. Noah did not have respect. Following Christ does not necessarily line up with our American ideals.

S. had a conversation with a student awhile back. She was discouraged, feeling like God was not talking to her. It became apparent that she was living for herself; making self-indulgent choices, spending time with people who are incapable of encouraging her faith, and trying to "get hers". Then when her life became a mess, as it inevitably does when lived with "me" at the center, she would quickly read a few verses and resort to frustration that God wasn't answering, rescuing her, and giving her what she wants.

Am I making subconscious "lists" for Santa Claus...I mean, God... expecting Him to be my personal helper in achieving my dreams and my ideas? When He gives me what will best glorify I glorify Him? Do I reflect His glory whether that means getting a job or losing a job? Do I reflect His glory whether that means healing or remaining sick? Do I avoid true sacrifice because I assume that He wants my comfort above His glory?

May I not stop at receiving God's love and grace. May His abundant love and grace in my life demonstrate His worthiness.

1 comment:

  1. GREAT post! Jim preached a series on Crazy Love last spring. A member of the congregation told him that he should "Lighten up his messages ... to be more Seeker Friendly." Ummm .... No ... Not compromising the gospel in order to keep people comfortable.

    :) :) :)