I recently read an accusation which stuck with me. I think the reason that it did is because there is truth to it.
The claim was that we emergent/post modern types tend to engage in questionable behavior and actions that are questionable, and that part of our motivation to do this is simply to show off how hip and free we are.
I think that the context was around drinking, but really, there are dozens of examples that might apply: swearing; Pg-13/R/NC-17 films; listening to music that seems to glorify ungodly things; engaging in expressions of our sexuality outside of marriage… I’m sure we could all add on to this list.
Over the short term, all these things have their appeal. Obviously, one reason we do them is simply that they are “fun.” And there’s probably something to the claim that we need to understand the world’s ways, we need to be relevant, we need to be in the world but not of the world. (Interesting, though, that we rarely seek out ways of emphasizing with others that are less enjoyable.)
All this notwithstanding, I think that there is something to the claim that it’s also a way to establish ourselves as not legalistic, old-fashioned, pharisee-like.
What Paul says about not abusing our freedom in Christ is incredibly important. But it’s not the direction I want to go in today.
There is of course the opposite extreme. Our little Christian ghettos. Ruled by laws that are not in the Bible. They are rigid places. The word “Gosh” is a no-no, because it sounds so much like saying the word “God” and this would be taking the lord’s name in vain. A restaurant that served alchohol would never even be entered. Again, you probably know the drill that these well-intentioned folks live by.
The word “Holy” means “Set apart by God.” Only four words. But both extremes only get about half of it right, I think.
The emergent crowd gets focused on the latter half of the definition, and more specifically on aspects of God that are often forgotten. When we engage in questionable activities we say that God is endlessly loving, radically inclusive, present everywhere.
The ghetto crowd set themselves apart. Sometimes they aren’t very consistent with who it is that is setting themselves apart. But they are quite good at setting themselves apart.
The ghetto crowd looks silly. The emergent crowd looks… identical to the world they inhabit. It’s true that we gain credibility by being understanding and culturally relevant. But we lose it just as quickly. On the whole, people aren’t stupid. When somebody claims that Jesus has revolutionized there life, but they are doing all the same stuff that others without Jesus are doing, there is a disconnect. People wonder– as they should– just where is this radical change?
The aspect I have been wrestling with is this: how can I transcend this whole question. Jesus often operated this way: the world makes assumptions that somehow you are on a spectrum in all sorts of areas. Choosing a place anywhere on that spectrum has limitations, problems, challenges. Jesus, through out the scriptures, made himself bigger than the obvious options.
I believe that there must be such an option. There are problems and advantages to being part of the emergent crowd. There are problems and advantages to being part of the ghetto crowd. Finding a spot exactly half way between the emergent and the ghetto crowd, will carry half as many advantages and half as many problems.
I know that Jesus wants more for me. What do you think? Can we step beyond the ghetto and the emergent paradigms?