How to be different – 2

So, here is another example of how we as Christians need to be different than those “of the world.”
Have you heard? Pat Robinson, founder of the Christian Coalition, former Presidential candidate, chancellor of Regent University in Virginia Beach, suggests that it would be prudent, productive, and cost-effective to assassinate President Chavez of Venezuela. According to Robinson, probably not one drop of oil would stop flowing, and besides it would be cheaper than getting into another costly war over one two-bit strong-arm dictator spreading communism and providing opportunities to militant Islam.
Read the AP article here.
As a professed Christian, Robinson advocates murder of his fellow man for crass nationalist reasons. Robinson does not like what this man advocates economically, politically, or socially for his own country, so kill him. This is advocacy of pre-mediated murder – hardly what Christ calls us to do or be as His follower’s. What is so tragic about this statement is that most people “of the world” instinctively know this is an immoral proposal! So much for being “in the world, but not of it.”

To be different – 1

I’ve been preaching at St. Paul’s these past couple of Sundays and will the next few, too. The message I feel compelled to give, and frankly repeat, is that the life we live as followers of Jesus the Christ, as the ones “who join themselves to the Lord” (Proper 15, Isaiah 56:1-7), as those who “pursue righteousness” (Proper 16, Isaiah 51:1-6), as those who confess that Jesus is “the Messiah – the Christ – the Son of the Living God” (Proper 16, Matthew 16:13-20), the life we live should look very different on significant and fundamental levels than those who are “of the world.” It is not really a matter of doing or not doing, although our actions certainly are a reflection and outgrowth of our inner condition, but a matter of what is built upon our foundation of understanding pertaining to our relationships with God, our fellow humans, and with the culture of our day.
This coming Sunday’s epistle reading Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good, acceptable and perfect.” (Proper 17, Romans 12:1-8) What are the results of our thinking and actions not being conformed “to this world?” I want to periodically write down some ideas I have about being different – again, not just to be different in action or speech for the sake of difference, but because our lives are so infused with the Gospel of Christ that we cannot help but think differently, speak different, act differently in an intuitive way.
So, this morning as I sat in Au Bon Pain eating my apple croissant (which, by the way, has far less calories and fat than a cinnamon scone!)and drinking coffee before work, I read in USA Today a commentary on youth and sports. I’m only going to mention one small part of the whole article that deals with parents and their actions and reactions concerning their children and sports. Some parents are demanding their children focus exclusively on one sport throughout childhood so that the child may become champions in something and get scholarships, etc.
“Says sports psychologist Rick Wolff, author of Coaching Kids for Dummies: ‘Excelling in sports has become as much a part of the American dream for parents as getting their kids into the best school and living in the best neighborhoods.” What is their intent? Is it truly for the betterment of their children or their own sense of self-worth and success?
“‘Parents are using their kids as a lottery ticket,’ Sanders says. ‘Before all this money came along, moms and dads didn’t go crazy at games. They didn’t curse their kids and get on them to play better. It was just fun. Now, there’s a Yellow Brick Road, and parents think it’s their ticket.’ In making youth sports so specialized, so adult, we’re killing our children’s joy for the game.” The article goes on to touch on the physical and emotional dangers for the kids under such pressure.
Youth sport is developing into something no longer about teaching kids sportsmanship, the love of sport, team play, but to excel to win, win, win, so that they can get money and often so that parents can live vicariously through their children. Greed and self-centeredness (whether monetary or for self-something), in the name of their children. I realize these are generalizations, but the cultural current is certainly flowing in this direction.
What makes a follower of Jesus different? One example is selflessness! We are to live our lives not for ourselves and our own betterment, fulfillment, or enjoyment, but we are to live our lives for others – our children, our parents, our friends, the poor, our parishioners, etc. In so doing, we discover the ironic dynamic that exemplifies so much of life in the Kingdom of God. We find ourselves full in all aspects of life. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” In our culture today, there is an expectation that we should not deny ourselves anything, and the expense or the effect on others should be no consideration! Christians are to be different, and the ability to be different – different at our core of being – in this sense comes from the transformation we experience as we yield our lives to God.