At the end of my last post I asked you what it would take to make the move from Unchristian to Christian, which is just what the authors of the book asked some well-known Christian leaders. Instead of having a reputation for being hypocritical, antihomosexual, judgmental, sheltered, too political, and too focused on making converts these leaders dreamed that in thirty years Christians might have a reputation for being loving, bold, gracious, authentic, courageous, admired, engaged, countercultural, focused on justice and—most importantly—focused on Jesus. One of my favorite responses was this one from Leroy Barber, President of Mission Year:
The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven: just a little of it leavens the entire loaf.
What if the church, over the next thirty years, truly lives the life that Jesus as taught us to live? What if we love our enemies, pray for those who hate us, and offer our coat when our hat has been taken? Are we ready to truly sacrifice and watch the world move toward the kingdom of God?
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who loses a pearl in a field and purchases the whole field to find it.
If Jesus is as valuable as we say he is, then what will we give up for him to remain alive in us? Can we, the church, spend the next thirty years valuing Jesus Christ and whatever he asks of us above all else? Can we even imagine what the world would become?
If the church will choose now to live this way, we can confidently look forward to seeing our culture influenced and changed. My hope is that when I am seventy-two, I will have seen the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God. I imagine a world lacking divorce, sexual promiscuity, and poverty, and overflowing with peace, mercy, and justice.
Isaiah prophesies that the old wasted cities will be restored. He says that we shall be called repairers of the breach, the restorers of the streets.
And then there was this bold vision from Brian McLaren, a founding member of emergentvillage.com:
In thirty years research could tell us that when people think “Christian” they think things like this:
- Christians are the ones who love people, whoever they are—gay or straight, Jew or Muslim, religious or atheist, capitalist or not, conservative or liberal.
- Christians are the ones who have done more than anyone in the world to stop the HIV/AIDS crisis.
- Christians are the people who gravitate toward the poor and who show compassion through generous action and seek justice so that the systemic causes of poverty are overcome. They call the rich to generosity, and they call on rich nations to work for the common good.
- Christians are people who believe that art and creativity are important, so they consistently produce the most striking, original, and enriching art.
- Christians are willing to give their lives for the cause of peace. They oppose violence in all its forms. They will lay down their lives to protect the vulnerable from the violent.
- Christians care for the environment. They don’t see is as raw materials for economic gain, but they see it as the precious handiwork of their Creator.
- Christians have personal integrity. They keep their marriage vows and are aware of how destructive misused sexuality can be. Yet they are compassionate toward people who make sexual mistakes, and they never consider themselves superior.
- Christians build harmony among races. You always know that you’ll be respected when you’re around a Christians.
It may be that neither of these visions is your vision for the future of Christianity, but isn’t it important to have one? A huge, hopeful, vision of what Christians can do, what the church can be, and how the world can change as a result of our efforts over the next thirty years? That’s what keeps me going. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. A vision of how the world might be transformed by the followers of Jesus, and how through our feeble and fallible efforts we might really help him bring heaven to earth.
If not us, who?