Friday, April 07, 2006

mice in a world of elephants

In the past months I have spent a good amount of time reading, thinking, writing, speaking and discussing the subject of Affluenza. Reconciling the disease of Affluenza with the Christian faith and God’s Word has been based largely on my own thoughts and developed through discussions with other like-minded brothers and sisters. Today, I was encouraged to re-read a few passages of Charlie Peacock’s New Way to Be Human. Charlie speaks (indirectly) about the Affluenza disease, but maybe more importantly opens people’s minds to the ‘New Way’, a kingdom that Jesus announces, which as Tom Wright says, must ”overturn all other agendas”.

Too often (I think) the church and church-goers simply highlight the problems of a fallen world, and too rarely do we (I am guilty too!) propose, show, live and invite people into a better way, Jesus’ way!
Charlie starts to do this in this book – enjoy a few passages from his chapter on Work, Money and the Kiss of God:

John Winthrop (1588-1649) defined success not as material wealth but as “the creation of a community in which genuinely ethical and spiritual life could be lived.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), on the other hand, gave “classic expression to what many felt in the eighteenth century – and many have felt since – to be the most important thing about America: the chance for the individual to get ahead on his own initiative.” This became known as utilitarian individualism. The idea being that if a society will allow each person the freedom to pursue his or her own interests, the social good will automatically emerge. Utilitarian individualism (in its worst forms) saw opposition by the mid-nineteenth century. Women, clergy, poets and writers raised objections to a life lived in pursuit of material gain. People still raise objections today, but their voices are mice in a world of elephants.

One voice that is not small is the voice of Jesus. But when the Father sends the Counselor as my representative--and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit--he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you (John 14:26).

Neither the need for money nor the need for goods and services defines work for the man or woman following in the new way … The gathered tribe of Jesus is meant to be a people who take God’s relational Word seriously. “All that we are and do as Christians is based upon the one-off unique achievement of Jesus. It is because he inaugurated the kingdom that we can live in the kingdom” (Tom Wright) … The Kingdom Jesus announced did create a new world and context, and a new world would require a new way of being human, Jesus came announcing a kingdom that must “overturn all other agendas”.

Can it really be that our work is to do good and that’s all? Yes. The simplest theology I can give is do good work and trust God to provide. This is the old way of Eden made new through Jesus. Honestly, this is just too good to be true for most followers, and so in matters of work and money, we think and behave like practical atheists. … rather than trusting God’s relational Word, we trust our own ambitions.

All God wants is people who will do their work as unto him, for his kingdom purposes, and trust him to care for what he loves. If we have a need for resources to accomplish good, he wants us to talk to him about it. If the work we want to do is really good, we can trust that he is way ahead of us. His whole re-creation project is about what is good and right. His invitation is to get in step with his goodness and rightness.

How do God’s people drift so far from the shore? Craig Gay (from Regent College) says that the drift is a result of our imaginations, “that we imagine our world in such a way that we ignore the real reality of God’s gracious presence within it.”