Do you remember when you first gave yourself to Christ? It revolutionized every part of the way you lived. Christ changed your heart, your speech, your relationship with your kids. He gave you fortitude and strength-of-will; he rescued you from the destructive power of your old habits. He gave you a new life.
Do you remember all those times, in the early days especially, when you wouldn’t shut up about the goodness of God? When you’d go on and on about how God restored all the things you’d thrown away in your stupid selfishness?
I want you to remember those days, those feelings. That truth has no expiration date.
I have dual citizenship, but there are certain things I do because I was born in Canada, certain things I say that—no matter how long I live in the States—I’m sure I will continue to do because of where I’m from.
No kidding, eh?
The Bible refers to God’s people as God’s “City”(see Isaiah 62.4 for example). It’s a metaphorical way of talking about the fact that there are a lot of us, and we’re all connected both by our shared goals and our shared allegiance to Christ. We are, collectively, his bride (Rev 21.2). Earthly cities have citizens, those people who live in the geographical region of the city and agree to abide by the city’s rule. We are citizens of heaven, but we live on earth. We are the City in the cities.
I think we’ve forgotten our true citizenship.
Christianity has often deteriorated into a religion, instead of living up to the calling of our founder. Everything Christ did was to get us back on track with what God did in the beginning. That’s why Paul says he recapitulated us, a word which means he un-did and re-did all our wrongs into rights, even describing Christ as the Second Adam to demonstrate the continuity between our New Creation as Christians and our Original Creation as human beings.
We’re musicians and artists and workers and dads—sure—but first, way first, we are the people of God. We are creators, created by the Creator to perpetuate Creation. We are people marked by God’s government, God’s creativity, and God’s peace.
There was a time in his career when Arnold Schwarzenegger worried he was losing his Austrian heritage to Hollywood. He was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but Arnold worried he was losing something he thought he might never get back—and, even worse—he worried that if he lost his originality, the thing that made him “Ah-nold”, audiences would lose interest. So he took lessons from a linguist about how to fake an Austrian accent. Did you catch that? An Austrian took lessons from an American on how to sound Austrian so he could continue selling movies to Americans.
We need to do that, or some reasonable approximation thereof. We need a place where people can go to be reminded of their garden origins and their garden-city calling; we need clusters of believers who refuse to give up on God’s dream to heal the world; we need extended, adoptive families of men and women who act as surrogate moms and dads to those without healthy role models; we need people who will devote their lives to Christ, not just their weekends.
We have such a place. It’s the Church. What I’m really asking is that you believe in it, commit to it, and work toward purifying it like I do.
Not a bad idea, eh?
From Garden-City Epistles
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com