Some Christians just make the rest of us look bad.
And no — I’m not talking about those who claim to be Christian but who make all Christ-followers look bad by leaving tracts about hell under windshield wipers, or picketing funerals, or shouting through bullhorns on college campuses. (I’m quite convinced that those tactics send non-believers sprinting in the opposite direction. Really — don’t even those of us who believe in Jesus dodge those people in the supermarket?)
I mean just the opposite. I’m talking about those few-and-far-between followers of Jesus who are the epitome of “salt and light” — who have perfected the art of living skillfully and actually obeying Christ’s commands. And who make most of us look wimpy and superficial in comparison.
Several people are or have been incredible examples to me and hundreds/thousands/maybe millions of others in how to walk the Christian talk. In order to do each of their stories justice, I’ll spread them out over a few blog entries, in no particular order.
The first people who come to mind (mainly because I heard one of them speak at a conference and read the other’s books this past month) are Brandon and Jen Hatmaker, who pastor Austin New Church in Austin, Texas (check it out at http://www.austinnewchurch.com).
I first heard Brandon’s story — detailed in the book Barefoot Church — about a year ago at a workshop. Basically, Brandon left an established position at a more traditional church — along with the corresponding comfortable, middle-class lifestyle — to serve the poor in his city. Austin New Church started through regular cookouts that the Hatmakers and friends held for the homeless community — a practice that continues today. The church spends as little as possible on itself, its staff, and its facilities in order to give away half of its income to the poor. (By comparison, my church — Park Street — gives away about 15-20% of what it takes in, and I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve bragged about that.)
The Hatmakers strive to live up to the same high standards they’ve established in their church. For example, they adopted two children from Ethiopia — and not because they couldn’t have children. (They also have two children who were born to them.) They did so because they trust God when He tells us to take care of the orphan.
Most of us would just send a check. I guess I can stop patting myself on the back for that 30 bucks a month I send to World Vision. (I’ve never even sent a birthday card to Onyango, the boy our family “adopted” several years ago after being moved to tears at a Barlow Girl concert.)
The Hatmaker family has shown me that any of us can do this. We can take God’s words seriously and make radical changes in our lives (and often in a remarkably short span of time). But sometimes those radical changes start with a series of smaller changes that open us up to what God wants to do.
Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
This tells me that maybe God isn’t quite ready to entrust me with the care of an Ethiopian orphan. But if I get serious about the hundreds of little choices I make every day, I might soon be prepared to handle greater responsibility.
Jen Hatmaker’s most recent book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, gave me a starting point. This book chronicles Jen’s seven-month-long commitment to simplifying her life and obeying God’s commands. Her extended “fast” is really seven fasts — each lasting a month:
- Month One: Food — Choose seven food items and eat only those for a month.
- Month Two: Clothes — Choose seven pieces of clothing (under garments don’t count, but shoes do!) and wear only those for a month.
- Month Three: Possessions — Give away seven things every day for a month. (This sounds hard — but think about how many pieces of clothing, how many books, how many collectibles, how many electronic items, etc., we all own.)
- Month Four: Media — Eliminate TV, video games, internet (except for work and school-related communication and research), texting, and all social media for a month. (And maybe rediscover the art of conversation in the process.) Er — does blogging count?
- Month Five: Waste — Practice seven good habits that eliminate waste and take better care of creation this month (recycling, gardening, composting, and the like).
- Month Six: Spending — Spend money with only seven vendors this month.
- Month Seven: Stress — Observe the Sabbath every week for a month.
At the start of Jen’s book, I simply thought she was crazy. By the end, I decided she was a crazy genius. Being radical in the small things of day-to-day life, obeying God in the drudgery of the every day, and eliminating some of the noise so we can hear from Him just plain makes sense.
So… I’m thinking of trying this, starting in September. (I would have procrastinated until October, but Month One is food and I’m scheduled for a long weekend at the beach that month. There is no way I’m passing up seafood. See how I’m already manipulating this to fit my selfish needs? Or should I say shellfish needs…)
Anyway… who wants to join me?