We are treasured, and our message is that the poor, weak, and marginalized are treasured in the heart of God.
In sensationalistic western Christianity we often undervalue the grit of victorious living (as opposed to the glamour). I realize that that statement butts against idealistic prosperity Gospel, but at the same time is not intended to fuel poverty mentality. The reality is that we are persecuted, but not abandoned. We are struck down but not destroyed. The dangerous kind of Christian is, as my friend Graeme the Buechner-esque ragamuffin put it, “someone who is potent for the purposes of God – being that they are those who will not settle for anything less than the ministry of Jesus (Luke 4:18-19)” (Sellers, 2008), and in our hunger to be Jesus followers (not just talkers) you can bet that the enemy will attack.
We are in a battle. That’s how Paul put it. It is a battle not of flesh, blood, metal, artillery, kilts, or spaceships, rather it’s something much more real. It’s a battle against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
Honestly, over the past few weeks the battle has been very evident. It was made real by situations (relational – from those we serve) of feeling attacked. Also, my wife hurt her back, and after her back healed, her leg was in dire pain. Come to find out it is due to a blood clot in her leg. The night she was admitted to the hospital for treatment, our ministry’s youth center got broken into. Something’s up. We can say, “oh, what a coincidence,” and write off the current season as a series of unfortunate events, or we can say, “there is a battle, and there is an enemy who is attacking.” Once that realization is made, we can more assuredly say with the poet Dougie MacLean “I am ready for the storm” (Ready for the Storm, n.d.). I don’t enjoy the storm per se. I’ve just come to understand that it’s a part of the journey. “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16: 33). And being on the same team as the One who overcomes the world (Jesus) does not mean the absence of trouble. It just means that you get to be on the side of the over-comer, and will rise as a “more than conqueror” (Romans 8:37) in spite of struggle. In the words of another poet, Ginny Owens, “But You never said it would be easy. You only said I’d never go alone” (Ginny Owens-If You Want Me To, n.d.).
Thinking of storms makes me think of the great snowstorm of 2010…and Noah. In a toss up extremity, Noah wins out. What a ride he had, and as his family’s pseudo-involuntary Mediterranean-ish cruise came to an end, I’m sure there was relief and fear. But the One that they put their trust in came through…so that, I’m sure, was effective in outweighing everything else. Can you imagine the ending? So finally, the Ark stops floating, and it comes to rest on top of Mount Ararat, and suddenly the last few weeks in the smelly floating zoo doesn’t seem all that bad anymore. The colors of a rainbow are the promise, and making it out of the situation alive is the proof. As contemplative Richard Rohr put it, “Everything Belongs.” Every rain drop, every animal dropping, every tear. It’s not just about us. It’s about us being a part of the purpose. The ride. The story. We are part of the “Everything” that “Belongs,” and so are the tears that we shed in the process of everything else. True, things will never be the same, but there is still rest, because the rainbow and the air filling our lungs reminds us that He’s got it under control.
So in the end, the fact that we’re living in victory on the edge of defeat is not a melancholy stance of an Eeyore Christianty that’s founded on justification by suffering (suffering doesn’t sanctify, but it does mature). At the same time I am not going to separate our spiritual victory from the humanity, which is an inseparable part of it. Sin and death was conquered through Christ’s love, and suffering, and He chose to do it that way. I believe as the Creator He could have done it differently, but He did it that way. To think that we will ride unscathed onto the field of victory is false. The victory field is the same field as the battlefield, and we’ll do ourselves well to remember that. I enjoy victory, and I don’t necessarily enjoy the battle. However, through it all, I do not fight on the battlefield to get to the victory. I do it because I love Jesus, and He is leading the charge, and believe He created me to share in the victory with Him (emphasis on WITH HIM). The battle is already raging, and I will join my commander and King in kicking the darkness until it bleeds daylight (Sellers, 2008). My weapons are the Ephesians 6 weapons, and the strategy is ruthlessly living the character of the fruit of the Spirit, and living an ethic of the values of the Kingdom to which I belong (Matthew 5-7), and all this from the paradigm that I was made for an intimate relationship with my Creator and King. We will kick against the darkness. We might bruise our toes, but the darkness is bleeding, will bleed, and is destined to bleed daylight. We are treasured, and our message is that the poor, weak, and marginalized are treasured in the heart of God. Yes, the darkness is destined to bleed.
Ginny Owens-If You Want Me To Lyrics. (n.d.). Retrieved on September 24, 2010, from http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/if-you-want-me-to-lyrics-ginny-owens/2e42fcfec8ed5d4f48256a2d00170a84
Ready for the Storm. (n.d.). Retrieved on September 24, 2010, from http://www.dougiemaclean.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=129:ready-for-the-storm&catid=61:lyrics-r&Itemid=99
Sellers, G. (2008). Retrieved on September 24, 2010, from http://www.allianceofrenewalchurches.org/Audio/The_Dangerous_Kind.mp3