Greek thinking tells us that the missionary, who travels overseas to work in a Christian village, showing God’s love to those who haven’t experienced it, is to be especially revered. Not to demean the sacrifice these people have made and the hardships they will undoubtedly endure, is this any different to those of you with a standard 9 to 5 job in an office, working in a thoroughly (and often aggressively) non-Christian environment, where any attempt at communicating your faith would be met with hostility, exclusion and even law suits? Who has the higher calling? Neither, because wherever we are in the world we are called to be witnesses.
All that God expects of us is to “be in the world but not of the world”. We are to be salt and light in our witness to the world, without being sucked into its ways. Not easy and getting harder all the time! James reminds us of the consequences.
… don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
And speaking of work, we hear a lot of folk working to live rather than living to work. Given the choice, most of us would prefer to work less and play more. Well that’s a Greek idea too, devaluing the act of working for a living and encouraging us to look forwards to weekends, when the real living takes place! Let’s party is the mantra of today, borne from the Greek lifestyle philosophy of hedonism. The Ancient Greeks were people of leisure, manual work was left to the slaves. For Jews it was a lot different – for some of their history they were the slaves – but that’s not the point I wish to make. The pattern of their attitude was set in the second Chapter of the Bible.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)
God wasn’t afraid to pull His sleeves up and get on with it. He expected man to do the same.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)
There is great satisfaction in working, a sense of earning your keep and adding to the common good. It is also God’s plan for us. He didn’t create us to spend our lives in selfish pursuits, leisure time and entertainment should be a reward for our toil, not an end in itself. Unfortunately many in the Church today act as if it is. Did you enjoy the worship today? No, not really, perhaps we should go to a livelier Church!
Having attacked one or two sacred cows I may as well upset the whole herd now. There’s nothing special about a Church building. It’s just a place where Christians hang out. It’s no more or less sacred or holy than anywhere else. The altar is just a table for bread and wine. The act of Communion is holy but the elements of the process are just ordinary old bread and wine. These ideas are all from Greece, telling us that what we deem as “spiritual”, even a building for meeting, is to be sought after. In fact God doesn’t just float around waiting to be summoned by his flock into certain chosen acceptable places. God is everywhere, even in brothels, crack dens and the White House, just as Jesus never hesitated in visiting places that the religious elite wouldn’t dream of setting foot in.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” (Matthew 9:10-11)
Next week we are going to see how ‘doing Church’ has been affected by Plato.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve’s book How the Church Lost the Way: And How it Can Find it Again )
How to rethink some things we do in Church