Have you ever heard or read a quote that punched you right in the centre of your being? Those are the moments to sit up and take notice. To examine the words and your heart a little more closely. To ask yourself ‘what is God trying to tell me?” While reading Red Moon Rising, the book I blogged on last week, I had a few such soul-punches.
Here is the first.
Pete Greig writes about meeting a group of Christians that:
“were ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. They were in the world without being moulded by it.”
Punch! I stopped and read that again and, at a deep level, understood it. I also had an instant longing to be that kind of Christian.
It’s not easy to be ‘ordinary and extraordinary’ in a world that’s on a trajectory away from God, that declares there’s no such thing as absolute truth and advocates to ‘do what feels right’.
In this new era, it seems there are two responses open for Christ-followers.
We can hunker down in our holy trenches, throwing judgemental hand grenades at the world. Here we cut ourselves off from everyone who doesn’t believe exactly what we do. Unfortunately, we lose our ability to share the love and light of Christ, the one the Pharisees—in their own holy 1st-century trenches—criticized for eating with the worst of sinners.
Alternatively, we can compromise and let the views of the world soften the seemingly-sharp edges of God’s Word. We stop believing marriage is holy or life is sacred (no matter how small that life may be). We scratch the very unpopular word ‘sin’ out of our vocabulary and replace it with more popular words such as ‘individual choice.’
Here’s my dilemma. I don’t like either of those positions, which is why Pete’s description of these ‘ordinary and extraordinary’ Christians felt so significant to me. It seems there is a third way!
Pete explains further:
“Roger and his friends were passionate about God yet gloriously and outrageously normal. Most of the really zealous Christians I’d known up till then seemed to live on a spiritual spaceship many miles from the real world. On the other hand, the Christians I knew who loved football and parties and could hold their own in a crowded bar often seemed compromised in their commitment to God.”
Jesus successfully navigated this third way. He spoke truth and fearlessly confronted sin. Yet he also ate with thieves like Zacchaeus, let prostitutes pour oil on his feet, and pardoned those caught in adultery, those the judgemental ones were all too happy to stone.
Another man who learned to navigate this third way was Paul. In his letter to the Corinthians, he writes:
“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!”
(1 Corinthians 9:19-23 MSG).
I think being ordinary and extraordinary, in the world but not moulded by it, is a difficult path to tread. I’m still very much trying to find my way. Sometimes I veer uncomfortably close to the other two—judgemental or compromised—positions. But I’m grateful that it’s not a path I walk alone, and as I seek to shine his light and love into the world, Christ guides me on it.