procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Club Member or Kingdom Citizen

as mooted, here is my article published just recently in AFES's Salt.

i should add, i didn't think of the title, that was all their idea. but it's something i want to keep thinking about, particularly as it has real impacts for how people think about what Christianity is when they first investigate it. maybe think, as you read it, how this way of thinking about Christianity (if you agree) could come in handy as you chat to people.

[i think my article's the 2nd row, 3rd from the right!]

A friend of mine was considering becoming a Christian. Maybe you too, dear reader, one day did the same. And like my friend, did you weigh up the pros and cons? Did you ‘count the cost’ as we say?

Is that a right view of becoming a Christian – is this the right way of working it out?

[Christianity is heaps like a club]

My friend was in many ways right to evaluate Christianity like a club. As he observed it, we all have a common purpose, we all share a love of the same thing (Jesus), and although we don’t have a dress code (Kathmandu jumpers and polo shirts aside), we do have an ethical code. We try to think things through in light of God’s commands and how they’re renewed in Jesus. You join up by applying (praying) and you’re accepted (Acts 16:31)!

BUT these are only things in common with a club. Indeed, most of the problems we see today in the church world have come from people seeing Christianity as a club and changing the rules as you might in a club: if Christianity is a club, then it’s a democracy. It’s got people who are voted in, and if enough of you want to change the rules of the club, or the emphases of a club, you do it.

[Christianity isn’t a club :: it’s a Kingdom]

One massive theme in the New Testament is that Jesus is the King of the whole world. He didn’t get voted for, there was no election, there was no charter of responsibilities and so on. The only one who had any say on the matter (God!) said that Jesus was His chosen son, Messiah, King.

You might feel a bit disenfranchised by this – why don’t I get a say, you say. Well possibly, because the club you would’ve made wouldn’t last!

If you’re part of a club – what do you have at the end of the day? You might get to along to a few meetings, get the club t-shirt (everyone loves those Christian t-shirts), and really have a great time of it. But if that is all Christianity is to you, then at the end of the day you’ve been sold a lie. The club will fold when there isn’t a quorum to vote, the club will get taken over, you’ll find out the things you signed up for in the first place aren’t even part of it anymore.

Christians believe that God speaks to us specifically, that the Bible is God’s Word to his people, by his Spirit, about his son. However in a club we don’t need this specific revelation; we can work it out for ourselves. Being part of a kingdom sees a purposeful revelation, a royal proclamation, with warnings, encouragements, promises and reasons to rejoice with your sovereign.

If Jesus is King, then there is a much bigger picture of reality we’re part of.

Philippians 3:20: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”. This is a deliberate portrayal of the peace won by Christ (Pax Christi) in terms of the Peace won by Rome (Pax Romana). Jesus guarantees your safety, will bring his army to protect you, will not let the enemy prevail.

If Christianity is a Kingdom, then you are safe. You will be safe. You are part of something bigger than yourself, which will continue on into eternity. You haven’t signed up, but you’ve been conquered. If you trust in Jesus, you are part of a kingdom that will never fade, spoil or perish, but is united and galvanised around the only sure anchor in the storm, and you serve under a king who gave his life for you, the one who sits in the power-seat of the universe, at the Right Hand of the Almighty.

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