Posted by: Dan | May 17, 2006

A Church Full of Daisies

Last week I was able to attend a series of lectures by Tom Wright at Wycliffe College in Toronto. A few of my friends and family members also attended and I was struck by a comment made by a sister-in-law after Wright concluded his series on Romans 8. She sat in silence for awhile after the lecture ended and then she turned to me and said this:

I feel that I have been so inundated with the message that “God loves me” that I have been reduced to the level of a daisy. Like God loves me and all the other pretty little flowers… I don't want to be a daisy.

She makes an excellent point. The contemporary Western Church so often focuses exclusively on a message of individual fulfillment. It's about me discovering how lovely I am. Of course, this is an important part of the Christian proclamation. Individually encountering the all-encompassing, transformative love of God is essential to living the Christian life. But it is only one part of the picture, and not even the main part. When Christianity is reduced to the proposition that “God loves me” then we end up being a bunch of beautiful, but brainless, daisies. This is so because Christianity is essentially a proclamation about Jesus of Nazareth and about the plans that the God of Israel* has for the entire world. Christianity is about being transformed in order to be agents of this God's new creation within the present moment. For, as Wright also said in his lecture series, “salvation is not primarily a gift given to the Church, it is a gift given through the Church to the world”.

Listening to Wright helps us to see how much is lost when Christianity is reduced to some of its present self-indulgent Western manifestations. Listening to Wright reminds us that we are individually members of a corporate body that has a task to fulfill. Wright provides us with a big picture without neglecting the details. And this must be recovered in the whole life of the Church. Serious teaching must be provided from the pulpit. The grand narrative of Christianity and all its intriguing, wonderful (and sometimes contradictory?!) details are not merely topics of discussions for seminarians — they should be topics presented to, discussed by, and puzzled over by the laity and the whole body of Christ. This is so because Christianity is a faith that claims every single area of daily living. Living Christianly requires a certain attitude towards business, towards politics, towards charity, towards family, towards children, and so on.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul laments the fact that he must continually go over the basics of Christianity with the Christians in Corinth. He began by providing them with “milk” since they were infants in the faith when he first met them, but he laments that the Corinthians have not yet moved on to “solid food”. A similar lament is made by the author of Hebrews who writes:

[W]e have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

It seems that the contemporary Western Church has been gorging on milk and has little desire for solid food. Not only that but it seems that our milk has gone sour. It is time that we recovered the foundations of a substantial proclamation — a proclamation that reminds us that we are not daisies, we are agents of God's new creation, commissioned to enter into the groanings of world in order to make all things new.

_________
*By “the God of Israel” I am referring to the God of the people of Israel as he is described throughout the Old and New Testaments. Israel is the people of God as they are described in Scripture — the descendants of Abraham who, after Pentecost, also include the Gentiles. Therefore, within this post, I am most certainly not referring to the contemporary nation-state of Israel.

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