Monday, May 14, 2007

Natural Christianity

The previous post, Radical Christianity?, posited the idea that Christianity isn’t as radical as we sometimes want to make it seem. Rather, Christianity is the most natural and normative way to live since we are made in the image of God. If we can grasp the idea that it is this image in which we were made that actually defines both who we are, and the most natural drives and cares we have, we gain a different perspective on Christianity and the Christian life.

Christianity becomes not something strange to which we must convert people, but a natural way of living that frees us from chasing unnatural things, and allows us to share with others a way of life that satisfies, and a God that blesses those who can see the blessings. Rather than a God that seems to have lost control of humankind and who seeks to judge people if they don’t jump through the correct hoops, we see a God that made us, and we can see (and experience) ourselves as most contented and happy when we live in concert with the insight that God tries to give us about Him and us. Jesus’ life and words were a revelation of God, but they were also a revelation of how we were made to live. Living life becomes less an imitation of God, and more of living more fully who we are.

Paul urges Christians to imitate him as he imitates God, and so imitation of God is not a bad thing, but it is only a beginning point. Paul urges us to be transformed into the likeness of God so that we will know his will, and apply it without thinking about it. We see a progression from imitation to living in faith and experience. As we imitate God, we learn that we are most contented when living in the ways we see Jesus having lived, and we sense the satisfaction that the experience of this contentment gives us. We sense that this way of life is most natural for us.

Because we now live in the image in which we were created, it becomes natural to live it, and it becomes easier to tell others about it. We no longer need to depend on personal evangelism efforts, or academic debate, or logical reasoning, but we can express our hope and our experience from human perspectives, to humans who are missing the very thing that we live out of day to day. Evangelism becomes peer-to-peer example and discussion with those who are on this planet with us rather than brow-beating and debate winning. It is also in this context that we can be honest with ourselves and others, and admit that living out of the image of God is not always easy; it was not easy for Jesus. But it is the most rewarding and satisfying life that we have experienced.

As we live without having to perform, but rather being shaped over time, life becomes more positive, our outlook more outward, our behaviors and actions more focused on and considerate of others. We become less worried about ourselves and our stuff, less about getting ahead, and keeping up. We become content with where we are and yet can focus on addressing the injustices and challenges of people who are less well off than we are, and who don’t grasp the meaning of life as we do. We become truly free to live out of who we are, and that provides greater and greater freedom and satisfaction.

Now that’s radical.

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