Have you ever read a quote, sentence, poem, tweet, or book that just really affected your life and the way you think? About two years ago I had a book recommended to me, it was called "Hinds Feet on High Places". As this person was describing the book to me, I KNEW I needed to read it but naturally being the stubborn 20-something year old that I am, decided I didn't want to because it of course sounded way too close to my life situation and I didn't want to deal with that.Read More
As humans, we have a desire to do something great. A desire to show that our life has a purpose, that life matters, that we matter. However, as Christians, we can get this motive skewed. We like to believe that it is our good works that will make God happy and proud of us, or even say things like, “if I could find my calling from God, then my life will be better, I just have to make the most impact somewhere.” Our good works are not what our calling is for, our calling is to be the fruit of the spirits and allow God to change the world, because on our own, we will fail. James Davidson Hunter took on these thoughts in his book “To Change the World”. A book of three collected essays addressing Christianity in the modern world and the task at hand. “But this is just the beginning; the entry point for a longer reflection on the Christian faith and its engagement with the world.” (5)
In Hunters second essay “Rethinking Power”, he takes us through a journey of three different dimensions of politics. The Christian Right, meaning the conservatives. The Christian Left, also known as liberals and finally, the neo-Anabaptists. Hunter starts out hard by calling out Christians saying, “Christians have failed to understand the nature of the world they want to change and failed even more to understand how it actually changes.”(99) A bold statement, yet some truth definitely comes out from within. According to Hunter, all three of these ways have failed to make a difference in changing the word. The Christian Right group also known as conservatives basically want a world that will represent their own specific life. “The representation of social life they imagine and desire is not a reflection of the reality they live, but rather their highest ideals expressed as principles of ordering individual and collective passions and interests...a vision of human flourishing.” (111) However, the problem with this is that it is designed from their own worldview and no one elses. This group wants to go back to the beginning of America, and stick to what the world once knew. Basically, this particular group blames people with a secular worldview for the destruction and decline of America. Although, Hunter gives interesting examples about how in Hollywood, Christians are hated. Even more so, in this world, Christians are under one of the heaviest attacks on campuses. Hunter quotes Stephen Baldwin by saying “We are the hands of the Lord, I don’t know about you, but I am putting some boxing gloves on mine.” (120) This is what it seems to have come to. The conservatives are trying so hard to change the way people are, the way they have been designed. They have placed most of their hope in getting political seats rather than in God. “Circumstances might change as might the players…” (131) The world is ever changing, if we stop growing with it, our lives start to seize and we become stuck in a universe built up by walls. The next group Hunter mentioned was the Christian Left party also known as the liberals or progressives. The progressives have the mindset in two ways. The first being in a secular progressive definition in terms of individual autonomy and having the freedom to choose their own lifestyle. On the other end is the religious progressives who lean more toward the total community side. (133) The main focus for many of the religious progressives are the advancements they look for to help with the weak and disadvantaged people in our world. Although, Hunter shows us the irony involved with the progressives side. “The message is obviously different, their organizational scale and popular appeal are different, and their access to media outlets are different , but in their framework, method, and style of engagement, politically progressive Christians are very similar to their politically conservative counterparts.” (147) The third and final group Hunter writes about is the neo-anabaptist group. This is kind of like the John section of the Gospels. It may have some similarities as the two others but incredibly different all together. The neo-anabaptists are all about basically staying out of the way. They choose to keep their hands clean and stay out of the mess of politics unlike the Christian Right and Left. The neo-anabaptists generally tend to stay away from theology as well and try to stick with the beauty of creation and social worldly causes. “...its silence toward every affirmation except doxology and Eucharist means that the neo-anabaptists have little to say to those outside of their own particular (and very small) community besides judgement.” (175)
Each group has it’s positives and negatives, that is truth. However, as Christians, our truth lies in the Bible, and within the Bible lies this concept of “faithful presences”. This idea of God literally dwelling among us and being fully present with us. “On the face of it, faithful presence suggests proximity, but it is much more than this. His faithful presence is an expression of commitment marked by at least four attributes.” (241) It is fact that our world is ever-changing, the people change, the weather changes and even more our culture changes, but one thing we know is that our God never changes and never ceases. Hunter mentions the four attributes that express this faithful presence of God in our lives. The first implies how God pursues us. We are sinners and we are broken people, yet God still seeks us out and chooses us. The second attribute was explaining His identification with us. “It was out of an understanding grounded in direct presence that he had compassion for those who were hungry and those who were blind and infirm.” (242) He knows us better than we can know ourselves. With His faithful presence we find the life he offers. Hunter mentions first how God created this peace within Eden, a peace known as shalom, ultimate peace. Even after the fall, God still creates a promise, a covenant to give us peace and hope throughout this life. In John 10, it is written, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The only way we have been able to come close to a life filled with God is because of the fourth attribute of sacrificial love. Sacrificial love may be one of the hardest things for our culture to grasp. The idea of somebody sending their Son to die on a cross, one of the worst ways to die in that culture at the time, just to save a person like us. That is a sacrifice that only God can make. “Pursuit, identification, the offer of life through sacrificial love -- this is what God’s faithful presence means.” (243) The question though, is how do we reflect the presence of God into our society and world. I love Hunter’s quote “Whether within the community of believers or among those outside the church, we imitate our creator and redeemer: we pursue each other, identify with each other, and direct our lives toward the flourishing of each other through sacrificial love.” (244) Imagine a world where when there is hurt, their is healing, when someone is in pain, they don’t suffer alone but surrounded by people loving them and walking through life with them because the truly truly want to. When it comes down to it, I don’t think this way of living is a “cop out” but I also don’t know if I believe it is a reality. We all come from different backgrounds and different cultures that in order for everyone to welcome the differences, it will literally take a miracle. As for myself, this is something I strive for. I long to able to be a presence of Jesus to my friends, family, co-workers and fellow citizens but the truth of the matter is that, that’s all I will be is just a miniscule figure of who Jesus really is. I am not perfect, nor is anyone else on this earth. We make mistakes and we fail constantly, and until people begin to realize that it is okay to fail and accept people for their failures than we will always be in this sense of trying to beat out other people in politics, in school, in theology and everywhere else we can make it a competition. At William Jessup University, we strive at trying to make students world changers. It is ingrained in our own Presidents speeches and told to us by our teachers in every class. We are being called to “transform tomorrow today.” We are literally in the process of trying to make the world a better place in the future by studying right now in the present. Take that idea though, and put the phrase “world changers” behind it, and there is a new level of meaning. What is a “world changer” and why does it carry so much meaning with it? A world changer is a person who recognizes the brokenness and hurt that this world brings but has a passion to do something about it and actually does something. They don’t focus on trying to get worth from other people or try to be something they aren't, they are completely committed and focused on the pursuit of Jesus. When it comes to William Jessup, our idea of world changers had become thrown-off. So often we get the mindset that we have to do something massive in order to be considered a world changer, but in fact wherever God places you, and if you are faithfully pursuing after him and longing to make the world just a little bit better, you are a world changer. Hunter makes an excellent point towards the end of his book about how as Christians we are to engage the world. “For one, it should be clear at this point that good intentions are not enough to engage the world well. The potential for stupidity, irrationality, cruelty, and harm is just as high today as it has ever been in the past.” (276) I think this is an important thing to remember when talking about changing the world. Mostly the realization that just have the good intentions to go out is not enough. Looking back at history we see so many examples of people that had good intentions but faulty plans that hurt more than helped. Jessup can create a revolution. We have so many students on this campus with a passion and desire to serve the Lord with their entire heart and soul. We are sending people out into the world to spread the good news of Jesus. We can’t change the world, but one step at a time we can make this place a little better to live in. It doesn’t matter what age, gender, sexual orientation, culture, or whatever else makes you “different”, we are apart of one earth, maybe it’s time to start acting like it.