Monday, February 7, 2011

Wholly Jesus

Wholly Jesus

Since I was awake anyway (the phone having rung in the pre-dawn hours of the morning because someone could not find a key to a church vehicle and thought I might have one - which I did)  I took the opportunity to finish up a book I had been reading by Mark Foreman entitled Wholly Jesus.  Mark Foreman is a pastor of a Calvary Chapel church in a beach community in southern California, and in this book he shares a little of his own story and reflections on his spiritual journey.  Exactly why it is that my own reflections on his reflections managed to push past a number of unfinished posts that somehow have never made it out of the "draft" folder, I'm not sure (it may have as much to do with untimely phone calls as anything else), but there are a couple of things about his book that I think are worth sharing.

First, I am always intrigued when someone "outside" of the Adventist faith community does such a good job of articulating a theme that Adventists have often thought of as being one of their more unique contributions.  Not only is this a helpful reminder to me (and maybe even others in my faith community as well) that we don't "own" the insights that we get the privilege of sharing, but also that God is not limited to or dependent on us to share them.  Both the encouragement and humility that this provides is a good thing, as it reminds us that we are not alone, and perhaps much more connected with others than we might realize at times.

 What's more, there is a richness in listening to familiar insights coming from fresh voices which frame things such that we are able to hear old truths in new ways, which can give us a perspective that we might otherwise miss through over familiarity with our own language.  

Second, because he writes as an evangelical pastor, from a perspective that evangelical Christians can easily tune into, it seems to me that he has a better chance of being read and heard by many who identify with that community, and who might not otherwise be drawn to the kinds of insights he is sharing.  

And third, I appreciate the way he invites is to more fully loosen our hold on the way that Greek philosophy has shaped the thinking of the church over the years, and to embrace once again the view of the Kingdom of God that was central to the message of Jesus and the New Testament -  one that is not just about waiting for an ideal to be realized in a world to come, but one that is about living differently right now in the world we find ourselves in.  A kind of Kingdom life that is not just about what the spiritual part of us will finally experience in the future, but rather a kind of life in which every aspect of our lives feel the impact and transformation beginning right now, as whole people, following a Wholly Jesus.

In any case, since this is not intended to be a book review but rather just a few reflections, I won't go into a lot of detail here, except to say that he does a very good job of unpacking the wholeness of people in a way that not only mirrors what one finds in the Adventist faith community, but which also challenges Adventists to continue to live out the full implications of that emphasis.  This is especially important for a faith community that often defines itself by it's desire to "make people whole" but too often stops short of fully appreciating all that that entails.   One of the ways he does this is illustrated in a short story he shares about the experience of a girl named Christy, and how the failure of her church to fully embrace this aspect of the Kingdom has impacted her life:
Her youth pastor told her that Jesus didn't care about world peace, only the apocalypse. He didn't care about the wellness of the body, only the soul. He didn't care about the people of other faiths, only Christians. He didn't care about art and culture. He didn't care about ecology; the planet was going to burn anyway. And he didn't care about the integration of science and her faith. And the reason she could be sure Jesus didn't care about these things is because none of these things were mentioned in the Bible. Jesus just wanted her to pray, read her Bible and tell others about him. But eventually the tension between the real world and this fabricated youth-pastor's world snapped. In order to be true to herself and her passion about these issues, she had to abandon the other-worldly Jesus she'd known. Christy is an example of tens of thousands of Christians who have learned to disassociate a thin Jesus from their own wellbeing, along with the wellbeing of society.  Even now that she is suicidal and struggling with clinical depression, Christy won't turn to Jesus because she believes he doesn't care.
He then goes on to ask:

Is that what we deduce from Scripture simply because Jesus 'never mentions" nutrition, ecology, globalization or pluralism? Jesus doesn't mention cars, light bulbs, toilets, burritos or televisions, but Western Christians seem to have no problem using these and incorporating them into their lifestyles. Wise believers learn to think Christianly and apply Jesus' teachings to all areas of their lives. 
*(both of these quotes are taken from the final chapter in the book, and as I am not exactly sure how to reference the appropriate page numbers in the Kindle electronic version of the book, all I can tell you is that these quotes are found at positions 2846 & 2856 respectively)

As a member of the Adventist faith community, (one that, like many others, too often expends way too much energy debating the bark on the trees to the detriment of the forest), Wholly Jesus is both deeply encouraging and affirming in that it reminds us that we are not alone in the richness of the contributions we have to share . . . AND . . . perhaps also serves as a wake-up call which should remind us that we do not own this message, and if we neglect to fully embrace it, there are others who have and who will.  

What a great opportunity for many to discover new friends in unexpected places!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Merci d'avoir un blog interessant