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Individual and Social Change

I recently read an interesting book by Tim Suttle, a pastor and frontman of Satellite Soul. This book brings the work of Walter Rauschenbusch to bear on the Evangelical tradition. An Evangelical Social Gospel?: Finding God's Story in the Midst of Extremes raised several interesting issues that face the church today. One of the biggest issues that he challenges is the three-fold problem that he sees getting in the way of the church actually living out its true mission. Individualism, Nationalism, and Consumerism undermine the full gospel life. But the image I wanted to share here was one that I found really helpful for communicating our calling to witness to Christ with our lives.

He invokes the images that were so prevalent during Saddam's Iraq--pictures of Saddam holding bread in the market, and holding books in school, and holding a gun outside the government buildings--all images to remind the people that whatever they are participating in, Saddam was behind it as provider of the food, knowledge, and safety. In other words, these images serve to point to a deeper meaning. Suttle then turns to our creation in the image of God. This sets up the framing of the Christian Mission as being to Image God wherever we are. I like that idea. What if we took seriously the reality that our lives do point to the deeper truth that inspires them. If our lives reflect the values of individualism or consumerism, then our lives will present icons to them. On the other hand, our lives should flow from our understanding of the gospel. Obviously, many people are rightly frustrated when the church does not imitate Christ and live in a way that points to God (hear hypocrisy).

A while back, I used the phrase--Windex for our Witness--to think about cleaning up the reflection of Christ that we are bearing to the world. I don't really think that the guy behind the counter at Alterra will look at me as an icon. But shouldn't we approach life in such a way that when people do look at the way we live (you know: treat our families, approach our work, spend our money, and respond to neighbors), they can see that something stands behind our lives and there is a deeper truth behind it.

Maybe this Lent, you can focus upon some way that your life as icon can better point to the reality behind it.