Full throttle


When something in our ordinary lives ends up exactly like we think it should, that gets us going. The team gets shafted by a bad call on a game-turning play near halftime and then gets the game-winning lucky break in the last seconds. Alternatively, the driver who weaves past everyone else at Nascar speed as you dutifully stay within your spiritually acceptable 10 percent over the posted speed limit is spotted having a chat with the officer who got him dead to rights on the radar gun. Justice issues have a way of getting into our adrenaline pumps.

It’s like that with relationships too, and again it goes both ways. The incredibly deep fulfillment of a relationship in which love and trust are rock solid is nothing less than sublime. On the other hand, relational tension, unresolved conflict and brokenness also stir us up. In a slightly different way, spirituality is a parallel reality. The pursuit of some sort of spiritual understanding and transcendence evidences itself in all human beings. That it gets us going is obvious. People evaluate, debate, judge, castigate and all too often do violence in the name of a preferred version of spirituality.

On a more personal level, we live with value convictions that sometimes lead to peace and other times to significant discontent. Relationships within common convictions are a context for peace, but interacting with those with whom we differ often becomes an occasion for tension. But we just can’t not go there, right?

Our awareness of and alertness to beauty has similar power. After an encounter with something amazing that takes our breath away, we are left to wonder: How is it that we are so captivated and taken by this? How can a single look at something have this kind of power? Or alternately, how is it that we are so intuitively repulsed by something ugly? What is in us that takes us there?

Where am I going with this? I’m hoping for two things. I hope you will read Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright. It’s like a new version of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Although I do not agree with all of Wright’s views, I do recommend the book. Wright suggests that all people “hear” and are impacted by echoes of the melodies of originally designed meaning. Review the above paragraphs and you’ll get the picture.

We are all impacted by our awareness of and experiences with justice, relationships, spirituality and beauty. Our awareness and experience leave huge, lingering questions. Wright clarifies why he believes that Jesus and his message pull it all together and answer all the questions. Wright’s book is a good read for a national spiritual family that has committed to having Jesus in the middle.

The other thing I’m hoping for is that we review how we tell the story of our personal commitment to a relationship with Jesus Christ. My chat with Mike on a recent flight illustrates what I mean.

“So, what do you do?” Mike asked.

I could have said, “I am the executive director of the United States Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and I wonder if you going to heaven or hell when you die.”

Both statements are true. But saying them would have increased my chances of getting some serious sleeping time on the flight. What I did say was that a long time ago I had decided to put God in the middle of my life, and that I have the privilege of meeting with local church families and their leaders to try to ramp up their positive spiritual impact.

That answer swung the door wide open. We talked about the disconcerting state of affairs in our world. We rambled on about justice, relationships, beauty and truth and even spirituality, including Mike’s take on Jesus. That got us both going.

Now you know where I was going. As followers of Jesus, we continue to tell the same timeless story, but we need to review the way we tell it. Starting with a question about how someone is finding meaning and purpose in their life usually works well: “So what is it that gives you reason to get up and go to work?”

A question about someone’s take on spirituality works like a charm: “Do you think the God-factor is playing a role in our culture (or in your life) these days?”

A little shot at what kind of justice crooked financial fat cats might need to experience will likely get some action these days.

You might want to read Wright’s book. And then you may want to consider changing how you tell the story of Jesus and your relationship with him. Who knows, you might end up giving your copy of Simply Christian away. I wish I had. 

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