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January 30, 2016, 4:43 PM

Dangerous Jesus and Spiritual Ghettos


The church, like most human institutions, has a tendency to become a ghetto.

I'm not just referring to our tendency to divide up along color lines, though what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said about 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning being the most segregated hour in America is still true, fifty years later.  But, ghettos form along all sorts of lines...class, age, religious persuasion, etc.

Churches make great ghettos​.  They easily become made up of people who hold similar views, are of similar class ​and race, and are even of a similar age.  The people within them grow comfortable and familiar with one another.

As long as life in the ghetto is good, it's easy to neglect and even avoid people who are different.  Why mess up a good thing?  Why change?

So, we slide into comfortable state of stasis, which gradually becomes paralysis.

As time passes, that comfortable klatch of folks who are so much like each other begin to wonder why the world has passed them by?

Way too many churches find themselves in that situation, because they focused...often unconsciously...upon their comfort, rather than the call of Christ, which has always been to seek out the people who are not "churchy."  His focus was on the people who were ignored, rejected, lost, and lonely.  They are often the kind of people who generally distrust, avoid, and disrupt institutions.  As a consequence, they don't tend to just walk into a church, join a committee and start tithing.  (Many don't even know what that word means.)

Years ago, I heard a Christian scholar declare that all institutions, including the church, have an inherently "demonic" aspect, because the first priority of every institution is self-preservation. This makes them risk-averse.  They don't want to change.  They don't want to sacrifice.  They want to hold on to the life they have, even if that means becoming closed-off and irrelevant to the rest of the world.  The self-preservation strategy becomes the path to gradual self-destruction.

Jesus addressed this mindset when he said, "Those who seek to save their lives, shall lose them." 

He then declared, "Those who lose their lives for the sake of the Gospel, shall gain them."

He wasn't talking about martyrdom.  He was talking about giving up old ways, for the sake of gaining new life in Christ.

A church, or an individual Christian, who seeks salvation by keeping things the same has lost sight of the radically transformative nature of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We remain inside a gradually dwindling spiritual ghetto.

This makes Jesus dangerous to a lot of churches, and to a lot of comfortable Christians.

He has always been dangerous.

But, ironically, that danger is what saves us.  He calls individuals and institutions to continual transformation.  He calls us to die to old ways and dare something new...to reach beyond the ghetto and into a tumultuous, changing, and hurting world.

We are called to follow a dangerous Christ. Because he is the one who also calls us into life. Answering any other call is what is truly life-threatening

Choose life.  Choose to follow the Dangerous Christ.

 

 


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