We look back on slave-owning churchgoers of 150 years ago and ask, “How could they have treated their fellow human beings that way?” I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at Christians in America today and ask, “How could they live in such big houses? How could they drive such nice cars and wear such nice clothes? How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they didn’t have food and water? How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn’t exist?”
Is materialism a blind spot in American Christianity today? More specifically, is materialism a blind spot in your Christianity today? Surely, this is something we must uncover, for if our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to question just how effective we will be in declaring the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth. (Radical, David Platt, pgs. 111-112)
Our small group has been studying this book, and it has been quite challenging (to say the least). Reading it again has reminded me of the materialistic things and the checklist of ideas that are still present in my life that were inherited by the American Christian culture that I was raised up in rather then the Biblical Christian life that I need to be imitating. Do I blame the environment I grew up in? Not at all! In fact, it was through years of prayer from my parents that, I believe, had me realize my ways and turn to a Way higher than that of my own (very similar to Hudson Taylor). And being on this path years past, it was just in the last year my wife and I caught a blind spot in our relationships with Father and with others.
The blind spot connects with the word for our year: intentional.
In the past several months of being back in America, I have caught myself reflecting upon the times that I have spent reading, playing on an iPad, and other useless activities that I fill my time with to “relax.” Oh yeah… that’s what I was doing. It was a couple months ago that my wife and I recognized that we were relaxing almost every night of the week. After arriving home from a hard day or two from work, a “deserved” night of rest was necessary to “rejuvenate” and prepare for the next day (which could have very well been Friday, of all days). And then, after relaxing during the week, it was the weekend, of course(!), the weekend, that should be relaxing and be a time to take a day (or two, or three) of rest.
Please don’t misunderstand my previous thoughts and consider that no rest is needed. That is definitely not the point. The point is, “When am I going to reach out? When am I going to be intentional with people? When am I going to make disciples of all nations?” Even David Platt, pastor of Brook Hills in Alabama and author of Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, speaks of how he’s scared of how he could “excel” in the American Christian culture for 20+ years and not make a single disciple for Christ. How scary is that when you think, pray, and meditate about it? Take a few minutes and truly ponder that…
It is not just through money that we can show our love for our Father and for others, but it is vital to devote time to actually reach out and be intentional with other people. This is a trap for us as believers to fall into and be lazy in action and idle in heart. What this means is going to the nursing home if you never have been. Try hanging out with homeless people in a neighborhood near yours, and stay consistent with it enough that relationships can be built through the time that is spent. If time can be spent, let’s look at how we use it as much as we look at the card we swipe in buying more for ourselves. (And yes, I’m including myself in this because we are His body!). The Good News needs to be taken to every nation, but if we can’t live it out in our daily lives, then we won’t be able to make a difference locally or globally.
This is where my wife and I have been challenged the most because of returning to Asia this fall. What we do here in America will ultimately be what we do there. And if we’re only “resting” here, that will be what we do there. Now is the time to be intentional. Now is the time to speak up, to reach out, and to love others and have compassion on their physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Don’t wait on others to see your example. Walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6) and do the things that you were created for (Ephesians 2:10). May God open our eyes so that we are not the blind leading the blind (Luke 6:39).