Last week I watched a video about a couple in Sweden who, for fun, dig holes in the ice on the lake where they live and get in the water, before enjoying some sauna time, and then a nice hot drink at home. It wasn’t preachy at all, and there was joy in it, and peace, the beauty of creation. I also watched a clip from a Christian conference where some theologians (all men) were talking about a ‘hot’ theological/ethical topic. You know, the kind that everyone thinks is THE defining moment for Christianity, as if a wrong answer will destroy the church forever. The entire tone of the conference was angry, sarcastic, rude, and proud. After watching these two videos in succession, I decided that if “ice bathing” were a faith and I needed to pick my beliefs based on these two videos alone, I’d become an ice bather.
I share this because we’re in a season when social media and internet ‘pontificating’ is getting louder, hotter, meaner. The intersection of economic challenges, Corona isolation, and an election year creates a perfect cocktail for ugly culture wars. In the midst of the ugliness, you can be ‘right’ about Jesus; his humanity, deity, death, and resurrection - and still wrong if the way you present truth doesn’t look like Jesus. Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ.“ Christians unlike Christ ought to be an oxymoron, but sadly it isn’t. Instead, the history of the church, both across the globe and across the centuries, has been strewn with perfectly orthodox doctrines spewed out in pride and anger, and sustained by manipulation, control, and fear. This is not “good news” and its easy to understand why many are skeptical.
Here’s a radical (which means ‘back to the roots’) idea: Let’s embrace our calling to display the values of Jesus, what Paul would later call ’the fruit of the spirit’. Love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness are the values of our king and kingdom. So when we call people “idiots” online, simply because they don’t vote like us, or when we declare people’s faith to be “fake” because of their belief about the age of the earth or some other doctrinal issue over which people of good faith divide, or when we neglect breaking down dividing walls related to race, class, gender - alarms should be going off in our heads!! “This isn’t what Jesus looks like!!”
Christ-followers have the imprint of divinity embedded in their renewed spirit. We‘re also called into a family (called a “kingdom” in the Bible) which becomes the lab in which the values of Christ and God’s ultimate reign of hope, beauty and healing are made visible and learned. We can’t hear it often enough though: These values are caught more than taught!! They’re absorbed by who you are, more than by the content of your lectures, or mine.
Might you suspect the two men in these pictures are related? The love of swishing downhill on snow. The love of getting off the beaten path to find untouched snow for swishing. The love of mountains? Those who know my son better, know that there’s also an entrepreneurial bent, a desire to serve people, a general love of the outdoors, music, and literature. The same could be said of my two daughters as well, each of them in varying degrees embodying values from their parents. Mountains, reading, writing, hospitality, service, kindness. Our kids WITNESS that they belong to our family, that they’ve come from our family as their source.
As we move deeper into all the fallout of Covid-19, all of us will begin displaying our deepest held values with greater clarity. It will become more and more important which family, which kingdom, is fundamentally our home. Are we from the kingdom of upward mobility, consumerism, individualism, nationalism? OR are we from the kingdom of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, community, and service?
Gandhi, and Paul, and Jesus, would all say the same thing as you ponder your answer to the question. ”Don’t mail me a doctrinal statement, with proofs and scriptures to undergird your position”. Let me see you live - how you treat the waiter, the person who cleans your room, the person who believes differently than you about Jesus, or sex, or whatever. Let me see how you spend your money. Let me see your life - that will tell me which family you belong to.
“You will be my witnesses” is what Jesus said in Acts chapter one. It could be translated lIke this: People will know which family you really belong not by the family you say you belong to, but by how you live. So, let the divine life of Christ fill you. Enjoy your journey to wholeness. And in the process of your journey, the imprint of your eternal divine family will become clearer and clearer. Now that’s a life worth living.
O Source of Divine Life
I thank you that your very seed abides in me
So that I have a capacity for joy and beauty that’s beyond the norm
I thank you that I’m called into a family of people
joined from every race, and social status, every nation and politic,
who, together, are learning and sharing the values of our divine family
Forgive us for talking about you
while living in ways utterly contrary to who you are
May your life prevail
May your spirit, with all its lovely fruits, infuse our being
May our lives make it clear, unmistakably;
that we belong to the kingdom:
of hope, not despair
of humility, not arrogance,
of patience, not rage
of love, not hate
of boldness, not fear
of life, not death