“Maybe God’s plan is different than Wall Street’s.” Shane Claiborne gently entered into his message at Mosaic Church in Portland, Oregon on February 6th with this statement. It hung in the air a bit before he proceeded. I have read both of his books, An Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President, but this was the first time I have heard him speak. He had his trademark look: The long dreads, bandana neatly tied around his head, black rimmed glasses, white plain T-shirt and baggy cotton pants. Upon walking on stage he gave a loud, giddy hillbilly laugh and his tall frame and lengthy arm span lent to his quirky, fun-loving demeanor.
What followed his opening statement was the message that we are called to be a peculiar people. If we are falling right in suite with the power players of our day, where is our peculiarity? This struck me. Rather than living to transform the patterns and systems of our world, the church more often (and more loudly) appears as if our desire is the other way around. Yet if we look at Jesus, he was always peculiar. So peculiar, that John the Baptist had to second guess him. This led to another point: the love of Christ “spreads through fascination, not force”. This is pivotal in understanding our role as believers. In light of consumerism and the church, it was refreshing to remember that Christ’s gospel is irresistible and fascinating. It needn’t be a bait and switch gospel, where we must lure in the masses with great music, yummy coffee and popular preaching in order to gain the most converts. Yet this is what I often see: a hope and confidence in nailing down consumer preference and achieving consumer-based success over against living a gospel whose confidence and vitality lies in abandonment and the creativity of Christ. I can’t help but wonder then, what good news are people coming to understand? I often feel like we have lost hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and are instead putting our trust in the gospel of consumerism driven by a worldy desire for more: more members, more converts, ultimately, more power.
Shane continued to explain that when John the Baptist asked if Jesus Christ was really the One, Jesus responded by asking what he has done and what they have seen. Blind people can see, the dead are brought back to life, sick people are healed. As Shane points out, really, who else would they want?
This begs the question: What would the response be if I asked others to “look at what I’ve done and tell me what you see”. Not only individually does that scare me, but what about the church as a whole? As Shane challenged us, we tend to “preach God with our mouth, but resist him with our lives”. He shared that the top three things Christians are known for are being (in this order): anti-gay, judgmental and hypocritical. That is not a movement I would want to join, and those are certainly not the top three characteristics of the life of Christ. On the contrary, as Shane discussed, Christ’s harshest words were to the religious elite.
“Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but to bring dead people to life.” This is a point he made that I believe we as a church need to meditate on and be transformed by. The religious elite were about control, power, and appearance. Life in Christ does not mean that we are now “good”; it means we are now alive–no matter how messy and reckless that may be. I fear that this compelling message is being choked out by those who wish to gain more followers by introducing them to a non-intrusive, non-threatening message of salvation (a sort of ‘you can have your cake and eat it, too’ salvation). As Shane said, we are not making the gospel too hard, but rather too easy. He challenged that we need a recklessness in the church. Reckless because we trust in the enormity, profundity and unconstrained love of our Creator, rather than the financial, medical, educational or political systems of this world. What would that look like if we truly lived this way? We are not called to be calculators and purveyors of progress but rather patient, gracious lovers of truth and justice. If we live a timid life harnessed and controlled by the systems our world lives and falls by, what does that say of the One in whom we profess?
What do you think about Shane’s statement “Maybe God’s plan is different than Wall Street’s”? How do you envision that we, as the church, can begin as Shane said to “dream big and live small”, and how do you see this affecting consumerism in the church?