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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

Thriving As a church in a Globalized World-Challenges Presented to Globalization By Religions: a Ref

Dear Fear-Of-What-Others-Think:

I am sick of you, and it’s time we broke up. I know we’ve broken up and gotten back together many times, but seriously, Fear-Of-What-Others-Think, this is it. We’re breaking up.

I’m tired of overthinking my status updates on Facebook, trying to sound more clever, funny, and important. I’m sick of feeling anxious about what I say or do in public, especially around people I don’t know that well, all in the hope that they’ll like me, accept me, praise me. I run around all day feeling like a Golden Retriever with a full bladder: Like me! Like me! Like me!

Because of you, I go through my day with a cloud of shame hanging over my head, and I never stop acting. The spotlight’s always on, and I’m center stage, and I’d better keep dancing, posturing, mugging, or else the spotlight will move, and I’ll dissolve into a little, meaningless puddle on the ground, just like that witch in The Wizard of Oz. I can never live up to the expectations of my imaginary audience, the one that lives only in my head but whose collective voice is louder than any other voice in the universe.

And all of this is especially evil because if I really stop and think about it, and let things go quiet and listen patiently for the voice of the God who made me and the Savior who died for me, in his eyes, it turns out I’m actually—profoundly—precious, lovable, worthy, valuable, and even just a little ghetto-fabulous. When I find my true identity in Christ, then you turn back into the tiny, yapping little dog that you are.

So eat it, Fear-Of-What-Others-Think. You and I are done. And no, I’m not interested in “talking it through.” I’m running, jumping, laughing you out of my life, once and for all. Or at least, that’s what I really, really want, God help me.[1]

Religion and globalization are alive and well. Globalization offers a universal and unifying vision for humanity: we’re all in this together, diversity is our strength, economic vitality depends on an economy that works for all, and posturing is an effective means to such an end. Each religion offers a universal and unifying vision for humanity which collides with that of globalization. Miroslav Volf writes, “When it comes to world religions and market-driven globalization, aren’t we in fact dealing with competing global projects, in fact, with multiple competing religious and a-religious visions of globalization?”[2]

To be a thriving church in a globalized world, Christians must understand the inheritance we have and the one we leave. Inheritance is about legacy. A legacy is the things you have accomplished in your life that represent your values, character, wealth, and passions that live on after you die.

Paul insists that the uniqueness of Christ is at the foundation of legacy. It is true that society has become increasingly hostile towards the Church. But Christians, in the midst of fear, hate, and anger, are to live as people who have been changed by the resurrected Christ. To the Colossians Paul writes, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”[3] The Greek word for “seek” in verse 1 is zhteite. This word also means “to pursue.” The tense of zhteite is present. The voice is imperative. In other words, Paul commands the Christians in Colossae and us today, to continually seek and pursue Jesus Christ. In verses 2-4 Paul explains how to seek Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Paul addresses the “how” of “seeking.” The Colossians were easily seduced to set their minds on the more material and tangible expressions of meaning. Be those expressions temples, traditions, or wealth, Paul warned the people not to lose sight of the promises of Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “set” in verse 2 is froneite. froneite is in the present tense, imperative voice. It is a command. To set one’s mind on Jesus takes the same kind of discipline and devotion that would be required for any other task which one wants to accomplish. In verses 5-11, Paul clearly commands the Colossians to “put to death” the things that aren’t of Christ. The list of things which need to die begins with “fornication” and ends with “abusive language from your mouth.” Let’s be honest with God and one another. No posturing. Christians will be more effective examples of the gospel when we decide not only to seek Jesus Christ, but to set our minds on Jesus Christ.

We live in a post-modern, post-denomination and post-Christian world. I am proud of the actions of the 218th, 219th, 220th, 221st, and 222nd (2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016) General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that made decisions which ensured the civil rights of and reinforced equal protection under the law for members of the LGBT community. The decisions of those assemblies ushered in full inclusion to the church of all people who name the name of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Luke reinforces the playing field of inclusion that is established by loving God and loving others. Luke 12:13-21 indicates this with the stories of the younger brother and the rich man. The older brother was not giving the younger brother his part of the family inheritance. And as was the custom, issues like this were arbitrated by the Rabbi. And so the younger brother went to Jesus with his case. The younger brother was shocked at Jesus’ response. Jesus said, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you? Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Jesus continued his lesson by telling the parable about the land of a rich man. According to this story, the land produced abundantly. In fact, the crops were so abundant that the rich man tore down the existing barns to build larger ones. The rich man’s sense of security was tied up in his skills, land and crops, and wealth. Jesus said to the rich man, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” The warning to the younger brother and the rich man is simple. Live for the things of this life and you will miss out on life.

L.P. Jacks in Religious Perplexities writes, “There is a coward and a hero in the breast of every man. Each of the pair has a logic of his own, adapted to his particular purpose and aim – which is safety for the coward and victory for the hero. The two are perpetually at variance, the reason of the one being the unreason of the other, the truth of the one being the falsehood of the other.”[4] There are competing universal visions for humanity…some represent the coward and others the hero. So then, we are like the prophet Hosea, calling humanity to faithfulness to God, all the while needing to examine our unfaithfulness in loving God and loving others. God will always accommodate Godself to us by bending down and lifting us up.[5] With David in Psalm 107, we affirm that God is the one who fills the internal and external yearnings of every human. And with that being the case, we should be grateful.[6] The apostle Paul reminds us to be reassured of the truth of our baptism that the new life we have in Jesus Christ is due to Jesus’ victory over death through his crucifixion and resurrection.[7] With Luke, let us learn the power of living untied to posturing and wealth in order to live freely in dependence on the One who promises to provide.

Gratitude goes a long way in making the case for the universal vision for life to humanity which we find in Jesus Christ. Humans are created to spread this universal vision of hope, life, and transformation found in Jesus Christ. Let us proclaim this good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed.

[1]Jessie Rice, “An Open Letter to My Fear of What Others Think,” Church of Facebook blog (11-23-11).

[2]Miroslav Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion In A Globalized World (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2015), 91.

[3]Colossians 3:1

[4]L.P. Jacks, Religious Perplexities (London: Hodder and Stoughton,1923), 17.

[5]Anna Case-Winters was helpful in my understanding of Hosea 11:1-11 with her insights found in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 292, 294, and 296.

[6]Idea gleaned from Bill J. Leonard in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 302.

[7]Idea gleaned from John C. Shelley in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 308.

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