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Monday, January 11, 2010

Sort of another rabbit trail

I was reading an excellent article (click here to view the whole thing) from Christianity Today -- I highly recommend that you read the entire article. I only post here an excerpt that smacked me in the face today. As I read these words, I realized how often I am tempted to worship at the altar of effectiveness. I serve the idol of "making an impact" rather than serving God. In some very real sense, I'm tempted to measure my worth by how much of a difference my life makes. These words brought me up short and helped me (again) to see where I've been getting off track. While this excerpt refers to what happens when God creates light (referencing Matthew 5) and so connects to Genesis 1, and though we'll come back to some related issues of productivity and emptiness in Genesis 4, I share this here more as a sidebar than a direct commentary on Genesis. It is however a good reminder that the verses we've been discussing in Genesis are indeed connected to nearly everything else:

The fact that everything we undertake will fail to produce the results we hope for is not a reason to do nothing. Far from it. The mistake we sometimes make is doing only those things we imagine will make a difference. When that is the case, our motive—the thing the drives us—is change. If change doesn't happen, or happen in the way we expect, we have no recourse but to fall into a funk. But there is a more excellent way.

That is the way of love, or more particularly, loving obedience. Jesus doesn't call us to make a difference in the world, let alone to transform the world. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:13-16), he does tell us that we will be "salt"—that is, we will preserve the world from complete self-destruction. No small thing that, but hardly world transformation. He also tells us we will be "light," that is, we'll help people see his truth. But when people see truth, often only hardness of heart sets in. Or worse: hostility erupts, and the bearers of the light are thrown into prison and killed, and the recipients of light remain in darkness.

Salt and light—that's about the extent of our effectiveness. Nothing about transforming the world through our efforts. Make no mistake: Jesus does indeed call us into the world to do stuff: preach, baptize, teach, and heal. But he does not promise results. Faithful diligence in such tasks will sometimes change lives and change communities. Whenever this happens, we can rejoice that God has permitted us to see him at work! But a lot of times when the church has obeyed faithfully, we've only received hardship—violence that seems to make things worse for victim and perpetrator alike.

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