“Does it bother you, Tony,” he said, “that the name Jesus elicits a completely opposite reaction from the name evangelical?”
– Speaking My Mind, pg. 25-
“While evangelical Christians should never compromise what they believe in order to gain approval of the secular community, we should care if people out there see little or nothing, of Jesus in us.”
-Speaking My Mind, pg. 26-
I feel as though some of the questions and concerns, the issues I’ve been having over the last few years related to my faith in Jesus are finally being resolved. This isn’t because I’m being given answers, it’s because I’m becoming more content that part of the Christian experience on earth is about not fully knowing.
This is all bubbling and gurgling out of me right now in response to a book I’ve been reading by Tony Campolo. It was written in 2004, but all the issues he tackles in the book – everything from Christian militarism, to Evangelical self-perception, to gays and lesbians to feminism – still register high on the list of social priorities facing Evangelical Christians in Canada and the U.S.
In “Speaking My Mind”, Campolo tackles these huge evangelical hot potatoes. And while it’s focus is primarily Evangelical Christians in the U.S., us evangelicals in Canada can probably assume that some of our assumptions, beliefs and understandings about faith and how we show it, aren’t too far off our American neighbours.
He deals with poverty and North American wealth. He talks about the war in Iraq – is this a just war or not? He deals with moral decline, Islam, and a host of other issues absolutely wedded to the evangelical platform in the States.
Perhaps what I’ve found in this book by Campolo is a fellow Christian social activist, someone who reads Scripture and is unable to ignore God’s pleas to take care of the poor and the needy. And yet, Campolo returns continually to the fundamental concept that Jesus taught – God is the ultimate judge, so with our limited time on earth it’s a much more worthwhile cause to take care of the log in our own eyes that to target the toothpicks in others. Beyond being worthwhile, it’s sin not to.
What a challenge! And yet that is what I feel is the hunger of North Americans who don’t claim Jesus for their own. There is disillusionment among many of my friends that Christians hold specific moral platforms to the death and forget that there are living, breathing, created-in-God’s-image individuals underneath the codes of moral conduct.
Campolo stresses that we aren’t called to make believers in Jesus, in fact even Satan believes in Jesus. That’s not enough. We have been called, since Abraham was called out of Ur to be a blessing to the nations, to make disciples of Jesus.
I think that means we can let down some of our morality guards and simply focus on loving people. It gives Christians freedom to meet people where they are at – be that gay, lesbian, poor, rich, hungry, militant, or whatever. I firmly believe that there is a movement in our churches today that will see a younger generation rise up that will say a resounding NO to the comfort, stability and nominalism of the baby-boomer years that has preceeded us.
A church that is going to reach out and bless our disillusioned friends here in North America is a church that isn’t afraid to admit that it’s wrong, a church that repents for sins it has committed and the sins its forefathers have committed and reaches out and asks forgiveness from those it has hurt – our First Nations brothers and sisters, gasy, lesbians, immigrants, and women, etc.
Think for a moment about this quote also in Speaking My Mind:
“An outside observer, visiting our churches and listening to what we have to say about God, could easily
conclude that we have taken the Jesus of Scripture and transformed Him into an American. Instead of
allowing Jesus to be an incarnation of Yahweh, we have made Him into an incarnation of our own traits and values. Many of us American evangelicals not only make Jesus into an American, but also view Him
as a deity who provides sanctification for our affluent, consumeristic lifestyle. We have created a Jesus who will fight to preserve America and all that our nation stands for.” (page 153)
Perhaps what is most significant about this book and what it has encouraged me to do, is find out who Jesus really was…who He is, is perhaps a more accurate statement. What have we, as evangelical Christians, fabricated of this Jesus? What is true to Scripture? Who was this man, who absolutely re-formatted the concept of God? What made Jesus tick. What do the Gospels say about Him? What was His purpose? And how, in my own life and in the life of my church, have we made Jesus into a passable version of ourselves, allowing us to excuse and rationalize our wealth, our prosperity and indeed, our sin? Just some food for thought.