A funny thing happened to me in class the other day. By “funny” I mean the peculiar type, although I guess it could be the other type as well. My teacher was telling us about how she and her kin had been to Center Parcs over the Easter holidays, and how she’d seen several others from our school there as well. Somebody must have implied that a lot of people become Christians while there, because the next thing I knew, she was joking about how she was going to be teaching a bunch of Christians before long. I thought about pointing out that she already teaches one, but I didn’t have the courage to lump myself in with the people she and the rest of the class were satirising.
Now, before you accuse me of not having the backbone needed to stand up for my faith, let me be clear: that wasn’t the problem. If people want to call me a fool for what I believe, then let them. My issue was that they were suggesting a particular thing that I’m not sure myself or a number of my fellow Christians fit into. What they were joking about was a weird, fuddy-duddy attitude that’s mainly concerned with praising some invisible dude up in the clouds, and which has little relevance to our lives today. Why is that the image that so many people outside the Church have of us and our beliefs?
I’m wondering if this is at all due to the attitudes put on by certain members of the Church. It’s easy to believe that God is only interested in the so-called ‘sacred’ elements of the world, and that anything outside of that is somehow a waste of time. Because of this, we have seen trading card games being deemed Satanic, record store shelves filled with homogenous ‘praise and worship’ music, and children succumbing to curable illnesses because their parents preferred to ‘seek the Lord’s healing’ rather than using the medicine He’d provided them with.
Yet that isn’t the impression I get from Jesus Christ and His earliest followers. To those in the first century who studied Jesus’ actions so carefully, it was apparent that He didn’t give much of a hoot about established right/wrong distinctions. He didn’t back away from the mundane things going on around Him; rather, He engaged with them in a way that always clearly showed God’s character. He must’ve remembered the words of David, who wrote in Psalm 24 that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world and all its people”.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t see anything being marked out as ‘secular’ or ‘sacred’ in that verse. How else can you explain the Messiah first demonstrating His powers by turning water into wine at a wedding festival, or hanging out with the tax collectors and Pharisees (well, one of them) of the day? Even today, when I think of Christians I look up to or respect, they’re the ones who will appreciate the shalom in everything good: a beautiful autumn sunset, a delicious pasta meal, a euphoric trance breakdown. “Everything God made is good,” wrote Paul to Timothy, “and nothing should be refused if it is accepted with thanks, because it is made holy by what God has said and by prayer.”
So, as for those guys in my class: maybe they’ve got a point. Maybe there is something about us churchgoing folks that makes us ‘strange’ compared to the rest of the world. But I’m unconvinced that that means we can’t be ‘normal’ in every other area of life. Yes, it’s a problem when people can’t tell us apart from those who don’t believe. But I’d say it’s also a problem when the criteria for the term ‘Christian’ are limited to stereotypical church-y, praise-y things. Let’s be dynamic, loving image-bearers who reflect God’s character into everything we do, however much or little it seems to have to do with the Church.