I’ve been thinking about how to begin this dialogue with you for a few days now… How to organize the topics, how to know when I”m done with one topic and when to move on to the next. Instead of worrying and planning, I think I’d be better off just diving in and seeing where things end up. After all, that’s the nature of a good conversation, isn’t it?
So where do we start? I think it’s important to understand who we are and what we want before we can plan where we’re going. Otherwise, we are more likely to end up running around in circles, constantly changing direction based on our changing priorities.
So, the question for today becomes, who are we?
For me, it’s quite clear that I’m a Christian. But what does that mean? The word Christian means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some, it means that annoying neighbour Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. To others, Christians are the ones responsible for all of the terrible things that happened in The Crusades. To others, the U.S. government and George Bush’s famous Crusades remark are associated with Christianity. Unfortunately, none of these associations (well, maybe my friends would say that I’m a little bit annoyingly Flander-esque) sit well with me. In fact, I have serious misgivings about the violence of the Crusades and I am definitely opposed to George W and his Crusader mentality to world politics.
Then the question becomes: As a Christian, what do I stand for? I stand for peace. I stand for respect. I stand for forgiveness. I stand for reconciliation and healing. I stand for improving our lot in life.
We have a choice in life. We can be optimists or we can be pessimists. To borrow from William James, we can be “sick souls” or we can be “healthy-minded”. To the sick soul, there’s no point getting excited about things because the negative far outweighs the good. In fact, the sick soul will argue that pessimism is good in that it sets our expectations low enough that we will never be disappointed. Healthy-minded souls, on the other hand, feel that there is good in the world. They feel that the bad is absorbed by the good. To some, evil is simply an absence of good. To others, evil is necessary to remind us of what good is. Without the two, we would have no way to identify good and evil actions.
We can choose to be negative or we can choose to be positive. Ever heard the statement, “be careful what you wish for”? Well… this is one of those times where you need to be careful what you wish for. If you set your expectations low, you’ll probably meet your goals. But, will your goals be worth striving for at that point? If you set your expectations high, you might get some disappointments. But, you’ll probably make a bigger difference than you would have with a pessimistic attitude.
I recently came across an interesting article that outlines what it means to be an Evangelical Christian. Many in the media have portrayed Evangelicals in a negative light. Fortunately, Evangelical is not a bad word. In fact, I’m happy to be an Evangelical. As Michael Davenport, the author of the article in question, points out, Evangelicals approach their faith in a manner that allows them to “participate creatively in modern society”. To Davenport, Evangelicals are reaching out to their peers, trying to share the good news of Jesus. In addition to the good news of Jesus’ death, which offers us salvation for our sins, this good news also outlines a way of life that benefits all of mankind. Just think of how much better the world would be if we all adopted the advice that Jesus gives us concerning how to live our lives. The world would be a much better place indeed if we followed his greatest commandment:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:37-39
Evangelical is a word to describe an approach to faith, as opposed to describing a specific denomination. Davenport identifies four key features to the Evangelical approach. They are:
- acceptance of the authority of Scripture over all other documents and traditions;
- affirmation that, suddenly or gradually, individuals are transformed (“reborn”) into believers;
- belief that Jesus’ death and resurrection were historical facts, necessary for our new life; and
- commitment to prayer, discipleship, and faithful service to wider humanity.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to work through these four features. What do these features really mean to me? How do they influence my behaviour? What do they tell me about how I should be living? Most importantly, will embracing these four features bring me closer to God? I’m going to hazard a guess and say you betcha!
Until next time, my prayer is that God will continue to show you the greatness that he has created in you.