Post-Easter Thoughts — “What Would It Look Like…?”

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Christians have not always represented Jesus well.

Our sometimes-poor representation has created a public relations issue for the movement that he began through his death, burial, and resurrection. When our lives seem more lackluster than compelling, more contentious than kind, more self-centered than servant-like, more fickle than faithful, more self-centered than generous, more proud than humble, more biblically disinterested than biblically anchored, more bored with Christ than alive to Christ, why would anyone be interested in “following Jesus” alongside us?

As those whom Christ has called the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and a city on a hill, this question is of utmost urgency and importance. And yet…

…our generation of Christians is not the first to limp along in its calling to herald Jesus well. Since Bible times and throughout history, our fellow believers have fumbled again and again. Noah’s drunkenness, Abraham’s misogyny, Jacob’s lies, Jesse’s parental neglect, Elijah’s self-pity, David’s adultery and murder, Solomon’s womanizing, Peter’s abrasiveness and cowardice, and the Corinthians’ worldliness are only a few of the many biblical examples of stumbling saints.

Past and present history also reminds us of things done “in the name of Christ,” but that would make the real Christ want to turn over a table or two—Servetus burned at the stake, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the genocide of American Natives, institutional slavery, white supremacy, signs that say “Fags Burn in Hell” raised at funerals, blind and baseless assertions that terrorist attacks were God’s judgment on America, hard-right and hard-left leaning politics, and so many more examples just as troubling as these.

In his masterful exposition of The Sermon on the Mount, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that Christians become a light to the world to the degree that they stand out as different from the world. The world does not thirst for a religious imitation of itself; nor does it thirst for an “us against them” moral turf war with its zealous religious neighbors.

The world thirsts for a different kind of neighbor—not the kind who deny their fellow man, take up their comforts, and follow their dreams—but the kind who deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus in his mission of loving a weary world to life. The world thirsts for a new vision for being human, for pursuing and entering friendship, and for leaving things better than we found them.

This is a kind of life, Lloyd-Jones would say, that only Jesus Christ can create.

So the problem isn’t with Christianity as much as it is with our flawed approach to and understanding of Christianity. Many of us who call ourselves Christian have let ourselves become imbalanced, lopsided, and unfocused (much like the rigid, holier-than-thou Pharisees and the anything-goes, libertine Sadducees of the New Testament).

To regain our footing, we must return to following the whole Jesus and the whole Scripture, into the whole world, the whole time.

As one who longs to see Christianity return to that place of life-giving, contagious presence in the world, I am both haunted and motivated by the characterization in Acts of the early church as a community that gave everything they had for one another. That description compels me to ask what it would look like for Christians to be reignited in this kind of faith for our time…

What would it look like for Christians to most consistently be the ones who live most beautifully, love most deeply, and serve most faithfully in the places where we live, work and play?

What would it look like, as Tim Keller has said, for us to live so compellingly and lovingly in our neighborhoods, cities, and nations, that if suddenly we were removed from the world, our non-believing neighbors would miss us terribly?

What would it look like for Christians to become the first place where people go for comfort when a life-altering diagnosis comes, when anxiety and depression come knocking, when a child goes astray, when a spouse files for divorce, or when a breadwinner loses a job?

What would it look like for a woman with a crisis pregnancy to see the local church, not the local clinic, as her trustworthy source for love, non-judgment, practical support, wise counsel, and much needed encouragement?

What would it look like for the local church to become the most diverse and welcoming, rather than the most homogeneous and relationally tone deaf, community on earth?

What would it look like for Christians to become not only the best kinds of friends, but the best kinds of best enemies, returning insults with kindness and persecution with prayers?

What would it look like for Christians, en masse, to start loving and following the whole Jesus and the whole Scripture, the whole time, into the whole world?

Jesus declared that Christians would be his aroma to the world, the carriers of the divine imprint, swept up by grace into the honored task of bringing foretastes of heaven down. He declared that we would leave the world—by his grace and power at work within and through us—better than we found it. He declared that we would be a sign and shadow of a better world, a world that all have imagined but none has yet fully seen. He declared that over time that through us, his movement would become irresistible to people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

In spite of a checkered past and present for the Christian family, I am an optimist. I am so Jesus still aims to renew and love the world through his people. I am optimistic because the negative stories, as bothersome and embarrassing as they are, don’t tell the full story. Therefore, such stories shouldn’t be allowed to dominate the narrative. The negative stories aren’t the whole story because for every poor representation of Christ, there are a thousand infectiously beautiful ones.

I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of Christianity I want to be part of, and this is the kind of Christianity I am committed to pursue. It is a more lovely and therefore truer Christianity that shines a light that is so lovely.

It is a Christianity that mirrors the whole Christ, thereby offering a tired and sometimes cynical world good reason to pause and consider the claims of Christ, and to start wishing that those claims were true.

How about you? Do you want to embark on a journey toward a better you, a better us, and a better world?

If so, Jesus says, “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19).

Let’s follow him together, shall we?

 


Scott’s latest book, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen,
releases June 14, 2022.
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2 responses to “Post-Easter Thoughts — “What Would It Look Like…?””

  1. Gayle says:

    After just reading the authorized biography of Eugene Peterson, A Burning In My Bones, I will try to encapsulate what I took away from this book. Never thinking in a hundred years that Dr Peterson would give permission for the less than glamorous areas and struggles of his life to be published for all the world to read, I walked away from reading the book not for a disdain of this gentleman that masterfully translated the Bible into God’s Word that made him into a person that was sought after for many positions and speaking engagements. But, that was not what he set out to do. He wanted the everyday person to be able to pick up God’s Word and understand that even with God’s “chosen” to bring Christ into the world, these chosen were flawed and human just like me and every other Joe Shmoh that walks down our streets. And Dr Peterson allowed his humanity to be written down for all the world to read and either embrace him as a flawed follower just like me, or become a smear campaign for our modern day media.
    To my point, we all struggle to figure out how we can better serve humanity. And this is what I took away from Dr Peterson – I saw this as what he, and his wife Jan, practiced in their life. And he summarized it well in the Message, Romans 12:1-2 – So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you; Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

  2. Brian says:

    As i read this piece from Scott, floods of tears filled my eyes. As a Christian for nearly 40 years i want to be better than what I am now, i desperately want to be more like Jesus. So many hurting people today, people struggling with different things need our love and understanding, we need to show them a light so beautiful they will want to know the source of it. Jesus is beautiful, God is good all the time.

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