To my children:
My hope in writing this is that you see a snapshot of where your father stood during this socially tumultuous time. As we continue to struggle with issues such as social justice, a divided nation, camouflaged hate speech and a president who has captured the heart of many evangelical leaders, we must remember that humanity will always be able to imagine the ideal but never attain it. Our hope is not in any one philosophy, economic theory or presidential messiah. There is a song that begins with the line, “our hope is built on nothing less…” Hopefully, you can finish that at some point.
While you continue to learn and experience the joys and pains of living, you will no doubt hear that Jesus is not about a religion, but rather a relationship. I am here to tell you that while the intention of that statement is noble, it is not really the truth in how we live. We are part of an organized religion. We go to church, We pray. We read the Bible. We are Christians first.
That is not to say that our cultural and national identities do not matter but rather they are filtered through who we are spiritually. I cannot say why we are not a Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist family. I cannot explain why we celebrate Christmas and Easter but not Ramadan or Yom Kippur. This is the family history we have and it is one that I have chosen to remain in throughout my adulthood. You may choose differently but at the very least, I want you to catch a glimpse of what it broadly means to choose Christ. And so…
Choosing Christ is a response to the world around us
- It is the recognition of a broken world and the realization that no matter how far mankind advances, we will ultimately fall short.
- It is the hope that there is a greater purpose beyond what we see in the natural world.
- It is the decision to accept the redemptive work of the historical Jesus, allowing ourselves to be brought back into the family of God and subsequently working to bring others to that same place of healing.
Choosing Christ demands that I become a servant (Mk 10:45).
- A rejection of a me-first lifestyle and worldview
- We are called to thrust ourselves into the lives of others, giving of our time, energy and resources to those in need and to the communal church.
- As we rejoice with those who rejoice, we must also mourn with those who mourn. We cannot sequester ourselves from the hurt and pain of other people, both here and abroad.
Choosing Christ does not demand adherence to one’s individual moral code
- God reveals himself and his character in Scripture. The image of God was revealed progressively throughout scripture, giving us a baseline of how He functions in this world.
- The Bible is the word of God in a human shell. As we have been gifted with discernment from God, so too did the Biblical authors react and interpret what God was doing in the world around them under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
- There is a beauty to the the diversity of faith expressions present in this world. This is not to say that any and all faces of Christianity should be wholeheartedly embraced and adopted. Rather, we should journey together with a humble spirit to find a more perfect Christianity as the world changes around us.
Most importantly to me, choosing Christ is not a call to isolation but rather engagement with one’s culture
- Christianity itself began as a sect of Judaism. Over the centuries, Christianity has continued to evolve into different iterations, both healthy and unhealthy, restorative and destructive. Our cultures now change faster than ever before and we must remain fluid in our day to day behavior while remaining grounded in our foundational beliefs.
- Christ does not body snatch people but rather takes root in who people already are. Only when we are open to His spirit are we able to excise the things in our lives that weigh us down. We have been changed and will continually change as we follow Christ.
- Christ allows us to participate in this culture, standing in as representatives of the ideal expression of humanity in any particular nation, ethnic group, subculture, profession, etc. We are ALL things to ALL men so that SOME may come to embrace the Gospel.
Let me be the first one to tell you that someone will fail to live up to these ideals. I could be the one to fail to live up to these ideals. It is my hope that my bumps and shortcomings do not push you away from the truth of the Gospel. I hope you find the beauty in all of this the way I have. At times, it will be your only comfort against the ugliness of this world.