Thursday, October 15, 2009
In Search Of Radical Faith
Your danger and mine is not that we become criminals, but rather that we become respectable, decent, commonplace, mediocre Christians. The twentieth-century temptations that really sap our spiritual power are the television, banana cream pie, the easy chair and the credit card. The Christian wins or loses in those seemingly innocent little moments of decision.Agreed. Christians are supposed to be radically different - somehow. The question is how. Is having a piece of banana cream pie wrong? - or using a credit card? - or even watching television? Not of themselves. But if that is what a Christian does, how are they different than everybody else? We talk about transformed lives - that's radical stuff. What does that look like.
It's not about what we do - it's about who we are. Consider:
Gal 5:22-24 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.What that says is that if we chose to sit in the easy chair and watch TV eating a banana cream pie that we bought with our credit card, there should be something about such that shows those attributes. So, for example, did you offer to share the pie with everyone else? - Kindness. Are you really enjoying yourself, or are you doing all this simply out of boredom? - Joy. Is your piece of pie too big? - Self-control. Are you leaving important things undone? - Faithfulness.
And yet, as I write that paragraph I find my unease growing. Each example I give runs the risk of becoming legalistic, which is something we are called to avoid.
There is a real chicken and egg question here. Real radical faith is about making such things natural. The difference between being legalistic about them and not, is not in what we do, but in whether it is a natural expression of who we are or not. If we are truly transformed in Christ, then our behavior will not be a matter of effort, but expression.
As usual, I must turn to my weight loss. As I write this, I am recently off of a cruise where I gave myself permission to eat. With one notable exception, I find that I am in fact becoming more normal in my eating, less of a fat person. In the afternoon the ship had cookies laying about. I found them nearly impossible to leave alone. That's a clear sign that I am not yet completely transformed in my eating habits. And yet, none of the other food that was plentifully and readily available tempted me at other than mealtime - and that is a good thing.
To a reasonable extent, eating is no longer my default activity. It is not longer the most natural expression of who I am. It is still a very natural expression, but it is no longer THE predominant one. That is the kind of radical change Christ is trying to produce in us.
It's hard and it's slow.