I’ve been thinking quite a bit about God’s Law lately. Maybe a week or so ago, I picked up a book from Borders titled Jesus for President, written by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. Last summer I read a book by Claiborne and ever since I’ve loved his attitude about the Christian life. So when I saw this one sitting on the shelf at Borders, I just had to pick it up and thumb through.
So far, through the first section (about 60-some pages), they’ve barely mentioned Jesus. All they have been discussing is how the Torah actually reflects God’s character and not just a bunch of random rules to regulate Israel. The whole idea behind each rule – and the main gist of the first section of this book – is that Israel was intended to be a people set apart from the empires that surrounded and ruled them. Thinking through the things they’ve discussed – like no poor people among the Israelites, no hungry, so strangers, etc. – I realize that I have not been living that kind of lifestyle. Yes, I’ve been going to church, I’ve been reading my Bible, and I’ve been praying (occasionally), but my day-to-day attitude has not reflected the “set apart” theme that God wants us to live.
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus redefines the Law for the people to clearly and blatantly see the character of God. Loving one’s enemies abolished the “eye for an eye” mentality, which, by the way, was only established not to enable the Israelites to take revenge, but to limit the extent to which they took that revenge. For instance, if I poked out your eye, you could not poke out both of mine. And even though Jesus has commanded His followers to live up to a certain – extreme – “set apart” standard, I’ve failed to carry that mentality, that theme, that constant sense and awareness of God’s kingdom with me. I wake up, go to class, eat lunch, come back home, open up a book to read, maybe watch a movie, and then get dinner. All the while I ignore the poor who pass me on the streets. I avoid anyone new lest I would have to meet someone. And in general, I keep the message of Jesus, the Word of God, hidden within my heart, bound up for no one else to see but me.
God chose us to live intentionally; not casually. Jesus says “Let your light shine before men,” but I fear that more often than not, I’m quick to hide it under a basket. It’s not because I don’t want to be judged by what I believe about Jesus, but because I don’t want to have to do anything about what I believe. Jesus’ commands are extreme to meet, to even try to reach, and when we say we’re “Christian,” there should be some serious connotations. When we claim the Christian name, people should react with a slight sense of wonder. Why? Because the way of Jesus is a serious lifestyle; it demands everything we’ve got and then some. But it’s people like me who dilute the meaning of “Christian” to something that’s boring and routine. Sometimes I feel like I’m slowly assimilating to society’s beck and call while trying to retain a grip on the Christian label. And yet Jesus says you cannot serve two masters.
There is a song written by Josh Garrels titled “Zion & Babylon.” Last year at a concert, he prefaced the song by describing the contrast between the two places. Zion is the city of God and Babylon the corrupt city of men. In the New Testament, “Babylon” is used to describe the city of Rome. Not only were the peoples’ practices corrupt, but even the officials, politicians, and kings were corrupt. What Josh’s intent within this song is, is to describe how God calls us to withdraw from Babylon and enter in with Him to Zion. Those who live within Babylon are worried about what the world’s worried about; money, fame, fancy things, big houses, nice cars, a private jet, etc. What the people of Zion are worried about, however, is whether or not they share and show the same love that God has shown them. Canceling someone’s debts, giving a beggar a sandwich because you can afford it and he can’t, and maybe meeting someone new just because we’re called to live intentionally.
If the Word of God is “living and active” as the book of Hebrews describes, then perhaps it’s time for people like me to stop trying to hide behind iPods, computers, TVs, newspapers, or whatever else that we zone out to, and start letting God’s Word breathe.