Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Living outrageously

I think it's been a long time since Christians did something divine that provoked outrage. I don't mean the kind of outrage that deservedly comes when child abuse or embezzlement is uncovered in the church. What I mean is the kind of action that is indisputably Christian, the kind that can't be dismissed by saying that it was done by "so-called Christians." Something about being Christian has offended people so much that they persecuted and executed the early church.

The likely candidate is the Christian confession of faith. It says Jesus is Lord, Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the Son of God. Those confessions were in opposition to the requirement of the day to say that Caesar is Lord, or to deny that Jesus was more than merely human. Beliefs drive actions. And actions provoke reactions.

In the last few weeks in Australia, the debate over what Muslim women wear in public has reached fever pitch. Some people have called for a ban on the burqa and the niqab. Some people who don't wear them for religious reasons have started wearing them in solidarity with those who do. Something as simple as a veil has become a focus for a kind of culture war. The public is outraged. One side is outraged by the women who wear veils, the other side is outraged by this outrage.

But if clothing symbolises the divide between Islam and the rest of the world, what symbolises the divide between Christianity and the rest of the world? The famous "What Would Jesus Do?" quip that was used to stir people into behaving more like Christ has an ominous dead end: crucifixion. Whatever it is that Jesus would do, it ultimately ends up at the cross, at an execution by the authorities and dominant culture of the day. If you want to do what Jesus would do, then get ready to make enemies and be persecuted.

That's why I have this question. What do Christians do that is so outrageous as to cause our society to persecute us? What authentically Christ-like behaviours do we have that are offensive to the world we live in, so much so that it reaches the front pages of news sites?

Our persecutor in the first century was the Roman Empire. That Empire continues today as consumerism. It's a way of thinking that surrounds us and drives us. Consumption is Lord of that world. But for us there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. If we are to genuinely follow Jesus, we have to turn our backs against the Lord of Consumerism.

But do we really do that? What does that even look like?

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