Thursday, May 20, 2010

Idolatry of Self

At the Mission I work at, we often talk about “idols” in relation to them hampering our spiritual walk and growth. The Old Testament talks a lot about idolatry, but the New Testament doesn’t speak much specifically about idolatry. There is a reason for this however. As I learned yesterday, the New Testament version of “idols” or “idolatry” is the idea or concept of “lust”. While the OT speaks of idols, the NT speaks of lusts…they are, in fact, to be taken the same way.

I have been thinking a lot lately about idols/lusts. As I contemplate this, I am reminded that idolatry is anything that turns my focus or heart away from God and His Glory. Of course, this can be any number of things, but what I have found out about myself is that I have ONE really BIG idol/lust in my life. The rest is periphery to this big one. The rest of my sin, actually, flows right from this ONE idol. You might be saying: yeah right!?!? How can you have only one idol or lust??

We are quick to pin the devil, the world, demons, etc. on our failures and sinning. While there is certainly some merit and reason to think this, it likely only makes up a fraction of our sin. For instance, if Satan is bound to be one place at one time, I highly doubt he is waiting for me to wake up each morning and then follows me to work and sits in my office to tempt me. Ha! I am not that important! I am thinking he would rather spend his time with, perhaps….politicians…hehe..What I really think is that most of my sin can be contributed to good ole me…my flesh…myself…So that got me to thinking about where my idols/lusts lay. And I boiled it down to one simple, yet big, conclusion. My big idol simply put is: SELF. Every other idol or lust simply flows out of my insatiable desire to please, protect, and advance myself. I am so selfish. I am selfish with my time. my money. my gifts. my energy. my lifestyle. I could go on and on. I want total, unilateral control of my life. I may say I believe and want God’s control and will for my life..that is wonderful lip service. But one need not look to deep into my life and lifestyle to find that I am the one who really wants to drive my life and lifestyle. Then, this idol of self gives birth to many different idols. But inevitably I can always trace back a sinful action, thought, desire, etc. to the fact that I care more about myself than any other thing, including God.

Certainly getting married has helped this. Having a baby has helped. Being involved in missions has helped. But none of these things in and of themselves have been able to break me of the care and self-love I have.

In times which the Spirit has truly led me, as opposed to my flesh, I have found freedom, mercy, love, grace, and redemption from my idol of self. I try to tap into my Spirit to guide and lead my days and actions, but also understand that the battle will be lifelong and often times labor in vain.

Oh how I long to slay you, self. I long to love you, Lord, above all else. I long to love others as myself. I long to seek first your Kingdom. I long to walk humbly, to love mercy, to fear the Lord. God, save me from this perishable tent, save me, I ask of you, from mySELF.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

(Ordinary) Radical Evangelicals

(Ordinary) Radical Evangelicals emerged in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as a broad-based movement of Christians who sought to integrate evangelism and the work of justice, live incarnationally among the poor, form Christian communities and critique aspects of Western culture and the Church.

The term came into prominence at the 1974 Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization when some two hundred delegates calling themselves “The Radical Discipleship Group” drew up a Response to Lausanne which called for a greater focus of the work of justice and service to the poor (Langmead, 94).

This diverse and global Evangelical movement emerged due to a complex set of contributing factors. These included: exposure to the counter-cultural movements of the 1960’s; involvement in new forms of urban mission among people alienated from church and society; interaction between Third World Radical Evangelical theologians and practitioners and their First World counterparts; impact of Charismatic Renewal opening people to the creative work of the Spirit; and exposure to more radical theologies such as Anabaptist theology and that of the liberation theologians.

To get some sense of what this global movement is about, it is important to note some of the theological emphases of these Evangelicals. These centre around the following themes: salvation is both the gift of Christ’s grace and the call to serve God’s Kingdom purposes in the world; salvation thus issues into a discipleship that is expressed in an imitatio Christi that calls Christians to live the way of Christ in the world; salvation is never only personal in that it also calls us into community and solidarity; this community is the missional people of God sent by Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be a sign, servant and sacrament of the Reign of God; this community in Christ is a community of worship, formation and identificational service to the world.

(Ordinary) Radical Evangelicals place themselves in the whole story of Scripture since it reveals a God who is both wholly Other and who is wholly involved in the world sustaining it and redeeming it. At the same time, they are particularly impacted by the social justice vision of the Pentateuch; the OT prophetic vision of shalom, justice and the new community; the theology and praxis of the Jesus Movement as portrayed in the gospels; the in-breaking of the Kingdom in the power of the Spirit as told in the book of Acts; the Pauline Vision of new life in Christ in the new community beyond culture, class, gender and economic differences and the nature of the fallen powers that need to be exposed, resisted and redeemed; and finally the vision of hope in new heavens and a new earth.

In the light of these biblical and theological emphases, (Ordinary) Radical Evangelicals see themselves as a prophetic counter-community in the world while being wholly engaged in the suffering and brokenness of the human community. Thus they practice radical hospitality. They seek to be a healing presence. They are committed to peace-making and the work of justice.

credit: Charles Ringma