Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life Beyond The Jesus Sprinkle

One of the things the kids love about going to smorgasbord restaurant like valentines is that, under adult supervision of course, they can pick their own food, they can mix and match what they want, particularly with desert.  And what makes the desert for them is being able to add all the sprinkles on top. Chocolate sprinkles or those little lolly things, crystallised fruit and of course hundreds and thousands. It becomes a visual feast as well as a culinary feast. I’m old enough to remember as a treat we used to be able to have hundreds and thousands sprinkled on bread that was the height of party food, right! It was just plain old bread and butter but having the sprinkles on top changed it to something special in our minds. They are decorations and while they are visually exciting they don’t permeate and change what they are put on.And as a responsible parent I know that my kids, even though they may wish to would not survive and remain healthy on such a diet.

Shane Claiborne, is part of a new generation of Christian leaders and communicators emerging round the world and in his book ‘The Irresistible Revolution’ he makes the following comment about sprinkles, that is Jesus sprinkles in the lives of Christian people.

If you ask people what Christians believe, they can tell you, “Christians believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that Jesus rose from the dead.” But ask the average person how Christians live, they are struck silent. We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else; they just sprinkle a little Jesus in along the way.”
-Shane Claiborne the irresistible revolution

Is Christianity a valid alternative lifestyle in the world today? or is it just that its followers Simply live out a normal everyday life with a little bit of Jesus Sprinkled in?

Claiborne and his friends have made some rather radical lifestyle choices to try and wrestle with what it would mean to really take some of Jesus more challenging teachings to heart. They live in a community in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Philadelphia, in one of the poorest in the states and attempt to be salt and light to the people of that community.  Befriending the families who live there the children and adults in the street. They turn waste land and empty blocks into community vegetable gardens; their apartment is full of used furniture and food that they give away to the needy around them. When there is violence on the street Clairborne says that instead of locking himself away to keep safe he grab his juggling balls and clowning gear and goes out onto the street. The kids who soak up the displays of violence before them are soon distracted by the tall lanky man with the multi coloured dreadlocks doing circus tricks. They have even tuned their diesel van to run on used vegetable oil they get from restaurants as an attempt to be more environmentally friendly.  We might call them radicals and they would happily own the title but say well were ordinary radicals, the word radical actually means to get back to the roots and they would say that they are getting back to the roots of Christianity. To be followers of Jesus to emulate that first church in Jerusalem where it was said that no one had a need they wiling sold what they had to meet each other’s needs. They would point to the great monastic traditions of the past, where Christian communities were seen as centres of hospitality, care for the poor, healing and wholeness, beacons of light in dark times they inhabited.

Claiborne is right that Christians have defined themselves down through the ages by their orthodoxy. By what they believe, and at the centre of faith is a set of beliefs that we have about God and how God revealed himself to us through his son Jesus Christ.  But as the author of the book of James in the New Testament says ‘faith without works is dead’, if our orthodoxy does not lead to orthopraxy then it is a dead belief. If what we believe about Jesus does not lead us to live that out in all we say and do then it is dead: An empty faith.

The Christian faith does invite us to live a totally different way than the world around us. To have different values and to live them out, It calls for a whole new way of being not just a Jesus sprinkle on top.  We may not find that it leads us to sell all we have and to move into the poorest areas of of our nation and world, but it dies invite us to see generosity be more important than comfort. By the grace of God we may not be called upon to forgive someone who has murdered our friends or family, but Jesus teaching to love our enemies may call us to be bridge builders with people who have harmed us in the past. It does call us to oppose such things as war and violence in the name of revenge.

 In the big things and in the everyday thing.

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