24 June 2008

Some thoughts on a Shane Claiborne book

Some Irresistible Thoughts

“I come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). These words of Jesus hound me with bafflement, though at a point not too long ago, their meaning was a little more settled in my mind. The casual glance over this text would have led to a deeper contemplation—usually yielding the general salve of “this is true because living for Christ satisfies you.” Did it never bother me that “living for Christ” was such a nondescript charge of the church for her people? Oh, this phrase shook me up enough to prompt more thought—but most of this resulting contemplation stopped at the following considerations about the dynamics of a full life: “living for Christ is being an example for Christ where you are at right now” and “according to Scripture, my intimacy with Christ should be fulfilling, but ‘fulfilling’ sounds exciting, and I’m not sure excitement is welcome in the church beyond the occasional ‘Amen, pastor!’” Employing Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, I have found words to prod my convictions’ formation and the reworking of such statements as the examples given above.

The first statement reaches not far enough. Why stop at living for Christ at the place in which you presently find yourself? Claiborne says “We live in a world that has lost its imagination” (132) and no wonder, for even the Christians cause not a stir—the stereotypical Christian owns a few Bibles, goes “dressed-up” to a church on Sunday, and may cringe when a co-worker cusses during the week. Where is the Christian who gives bread to the poor, much less “when he gives bread to the beggars…gets on his knees and asks forgiveness from them”?(164). The breaking of the Christian stereotype with acts of tangible grace may be the most imaginative, Truth-filled experience this dead world has seen. For when, foreign to the constrains of fallen humanity, an incomputable action such as love takes place, it could be possible that “a…land of people who had forgotten how to feel” (89) could be taught.

Introducing feeling to the world-gone-numb requires people who know how to feel, in this case, Christians who know how to feel—a people passionate, a people ignited with a full life, a people not afraid of going beyond the accepted “Amen, pastor!” One of the phrases Claiborne uses in his book is “reckless, unguarded worship,” (44) and it presented a new dimension to Christ-following. Christians don’t necessarily need to sing solely from a hymnal, but worship can be imaginative, unguarded, yes even reckless? As reckless (by the world’s standards) as giving away one’s possessions? As reckless as asking forgiveness from beggars? Truly such questions should at least provoke thought among society’s religious, and at most should revolutionize the thought- and action-life of those who “…believe in a God of scandalous grace” (207).

Because of the difficult issues discussed in The Irresistible Revolution, it is a book that should be read at different points in one’s life, to see a progression in one’s thinking. Yet when reading, one should strive, not to align one’s thoughts to those of Claiborne, but of Scripture—which indeed will take much research and meditation on one’s own. However, I am confident that the results of newly formed or stronger convictions will be worth the effort expended.

A type of post-script:

Along this line of thought lies the phrase in The Irresistible Revolution that most unsettled me and upset my worldview. Quoting a pastor’s words as an example of incorrect teaching, Claiborne says, “‘Now this doesn’t mean you have to go sell your rollerblades and golf clubs’” (102-103). I too have had reassurances such as this—and been relieved that I am not commanded to dispose of my comforts. So now I can cease my worry, for no harm comes to those possessions of mine, Jesus only meant that He requires the right heart attitude of us and of the rich young ruler of the Gospel. (Luke 18:22 “When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.") There indeed lies value in the correct heart disposition, and the heart that sighs in relief when told that not every material possession is demanded may not have the right focus. But what is the fulfillment of this command to man of the Gospels? Is this command to be the same for each Christian? The Pharisees gave much money to the temple, yes, even to the poor, yet insisted on an explanation when Jesus sat with the unclean. “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:11-13). And if this compassion is best done through the sale of rollerblades and golf clubs, may they be willingly offered. (However, the question remains—should all that we possess be offered up before we see that these items are needed? Should there be a general move toward distributing all that we own to the poor, for we know the poor are plenty? These questions must be wrestled with at a future time).

1 comment:

Michael said...

postscript= my thoughts/experiences exactly.
(and if it is a matter of the heart, then why do we still have and value all the stuff so dearly? Saying it is just a matter of the heart makes it easy to dismiss our materialism, for "The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it." (Jer. 17:9 HCSB)