Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Gospel (Page 3 of 3)

If the poor are always with us, why bother trying to alleviate poverty?

Sight Magazine just posted my recent piece on Jesus’ oft misunderstood words when the woman anointed him with perfume.

You’re too powerful – part 2

church-state-streetsThis is the second of a two-part post based on a recent Facebook discussion on the Christian and power:

As affluent Western Christians, we are people in power. We haven’t had a choice really; most of us just happened to be born in one of the richest countries in the world. This has affected our view of the world. Our view of the world is determined by where we stand. Simply because of where we live, we have power, whether we realise it or not. Our purchasing decisions can literally mean life or death for millions of people in the majority poor world.

Martin Luther King made the point that no matter where we live in the world, we are all linked. Our lifestyles all impact on each other. The clothes I buy either keep people in slavery somewhere in Asia, or they contribute in a small way to the betterment of their lives, depending on my purchasing choices.

I believe it is possible to be a Christian in power. Power gives you access to justice; it allows you to advocate. That’s why the first Christians, including Paul and others of his time, didn’t tackle the evil of slavery. It is a common criticism of Christian faith that Jesus and St Paul didn’t say anything about slavery. It’s because they didn’t have any power. That is one of the perks of having power.

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You’re too powerful – part 1


This is the first of a two-part post based on a recent Facebook discussion on the Christian and power:

“When religion is too closely linked with power, the problem is not just that religion underwrites oppression, but that the gospel itself is lost. If Christ is just a baby or a dead body, I can keep on living and not allow Christ’s lordship to shed light on all dimensions of my life.” – Ruth Padilla DeBorst

For most of its existence, Christian faith has been aligned with power. Ever since Christianity became the State religion under Constantine in the 4th century, there has been a watering down of the radical social ethics that the Gospel of Jesus demands of us.

Anne Wilkinson-Hayes, of the Baptist Union of Victoria, talks about the impact of Christendom on the faith. They include a change in the way the Bible had to be read (more about that below); marginalising of the human Jesus with a focus on his heavenly character; and a sanctioning of warfare by the church. In short, the persecuted became the persecutors.

Recently I’ve been involved in a brief Facebook discussion based on the above quote from Ruth Padilla DeBorst. The question came up about whether or not we can be a Christian in power. A reference was made to Philippians 4:22 in which St Paul sends a greeting from those Christians in the emperor’s household.

One of the problems of being too closely aligned to power is that we lose our prophetic edge. We become numb to the demands of Jesus as we gradually go along with the allegiances of the State.

It takes huge courage to be close to power and still be prophetic. I think of Daniel who worked with the government of the day. He rose through the ranks but when he spoke out and said something that emperor didn’t like, he was thrown to the lion’s den. It was the same with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; when they refused to worship the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar set up, they were thrown into the fiery furnace.

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Anzac Day and the enduring hope of Christianity

As Jarrod McKenna says, we don’t honour the diggers if we forget the horrors of war. I have generally had mixed feelings about Anzac Day. As I think about it though, I think it’s important to honour the diggers for their incredible bravery. It is an example for us to live lives of courage in a non-violent way, in a way that promotes relationship and love. Simon Smart from the Centre for Public Christianity does this well in this brief comparison of what Anzac Day shares with the Christian message.

Movie Review – Les Miserables


If you wanted to find an illustration of what the Gospel is, you couldn’t do much better than going to see the latest film version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. As old as this story is, this is the first time I’ve ever been through it. I have never finished reading the book, nor have I ever seen a film or performance of this most incredible of stories.

The Gospel comes out in this story as powerfully (perhaps even moreso) as it does in C.S. Lewis’Chronicles of Narnia. The overarching storyline is one of grace compared to law. The first clear sign we see of this is when the convict Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman) is caught stealing a whole lot of silverware from a priest who has given him lodging. Dragged back in disgrace to the priest’s house by the police, the priest remarkably says to Valjean that he forgot to take the fine candle holders, and gives them to him as well. Struck by the unfathomable mercy and forgiveness shown him by the priest. Valjean becomes a changed man, rebuilding his life to eventually become mayor of a small town. From petty thief to an honest and good man, Valjean begins to love because he is first shown love (1 John 4:19).

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More on ‘What is the Gospel?’

what-is-the-gospel1Rowland Croucher recently had a piece on his website called The Gospel Question. It is from a Bible study that Rowland runs at his Wednesday Koinonia group. Much of what is said reflects my recent pieces on ‘What is the Gospel?’. It starts off with the following:

I suspect that many of us resonate with McLaren’s re-interpretation of what constitutes the Gospel – that in fact Jesus was announcing Good news” “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”  Like many I have grown up with the epistle to the Romans serving as “our theological headquarters.”  It was refreshing to read someone who, like many of us, would like to see the Gospels and the stories of Jesus become more primary in our understanding of life and faith.

Read the rest of this great study here.

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