The Will Of God: More Abstractions So We Can Avoid Following Jesus

My title says it all, I probably don’t have to say another word… but I will. ūüėČ

I have grown up hearing Christians talk a lot about aligning themselves to the ‘will of God’. People wrestle constantly over whether they are aligned with God’s will’. This is the most sacred of tasks for many people. If one can be sure they are walking in the will of God, all is well. And so we try to ‘discern’. We try to discern if the church we are currently attending is the right one to feed us and our faith. We try to discern if that someone special is ‘the One’ for us. We try to discern if a particular ministry opportunity is what God is calling us to. If someone asks us to commit to help serve others because we are capable of doing so, first we need to pray about it. We pray about it because we need to know if it is in God’s will for our lives.

Following this logic, people amazingly tend to hear from God through the Spirit. The Spirit just so happens to lead most people into living lives that are self centered, apathetic, and in pursuit of the American Dream. But, one ought not question it, because it is God’s will, and the Spirit ‘led them’ to this point. Right?

In the New Testament, the primary motif for determining the life and lifestyle of a Christian is based on the call to follow and imitate Jesus. Consider Luke 9:23, 1 Pet. 2:20-21, 1 Cor. 11:1, 1 John 2:6 for just a few samples of this. What I am saying is that the Christian life is not a blank slate, upon which we need to discern how to fill it all up. Instead, the Christian life ¬†is defined by a concrete lifestyle and ethics which demands following. We follow the life of Christ. Jesus is never on route to the American Dream (or the Imperial Throne of Rome), but to the cross. In fact, to choose to not live a life of the cross is to choose to no longer be Christ’s follower (Luke 14:27).

So back to discerning the ‘will of God’. Before we make the Christian life an abstract,and hence meaningless thing, we ought to start off by faithfully following and obeying Christ. However, I still do believe that we ought to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. Yet, we must insist that there is only one Spirit, and it is always guiding us concretely in the steps of Jesus. We can know the Spirit of God is alive in our lives and truly guiding us when our lives are aligned with the work and life of Christ. Jesus understood very well what the Spirit was leading him to:¬†‚ÄúThe Spirit of the Lord is upon me,¬†because he has anointed¬†me to proclaim good news¬†to the poor.¬†He has sent me¬†to proclaim release¬†to the captives¬†and the regaining of sight¬†to the blind,¬†to set free¬†those who are oppressed,¬†to proclaim the year¬†of the Lord‚Äôs favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

Let’s not use the ‘will of God’ as an excuse to avoid following Jesus and obeying his commands. To follow Jesus is the will of God for our lives.

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Dr. Jeremiah Wright

Dr. Jeremiah Wright and Drew Hart

So Jeremiah Wright was in Philly, on my block. He spoke on the 14th and the 15th at the traditional baptist church on the corner. ¬†Unfortunately, I was sick and was only able to make it out on the 15th. He looked at how Paul and Silas were treated, along with how they responded to that treatment, and its final outcome. He compared their being put “in an awkward predicament” having done nothing wrong, and having been lied on, with the African American experience of slavery, suffering, and stereotypes (my alliteration, not his).

He called on folks to respond with prayer, realizing that our prayers are being heard by God in ways we cannot fathom. He also called on us to praise, in which he particularly highlighted the need to pass on the negro spirituals and old songs that have sustained our community for generations.

He also reminded us that God likes to work in the midnight hour, over and over again, he shows up in the midnight hour, turning the situation around. He said much more, unfortunately I didn’t take notes, and so this is the core of what I remember of the top of my head, two days later.

Jeremiah Wright in the Pulpit

Finally, I just want to state that Jeremiah Wright is a lyricist. Yes, he is a wordsmith, who carefully crafts and delivers words with power, courage, creativity, and prophetic imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed just hearing him speak, nonetheless actually receiving the content packaged in his brilliance.

I know that Jeremiah Wright is a controversial figure to many in our country, but I urge you to move past the sound bites, and you will see that he is nothing more than a continuation of the black prophetic tradition that we see in the likes of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, Ida B. Wells, Fred Shuttlesworth, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other courageous black christian leaders who spoke truth to power, whether or not it was convenient or popular. In the case of speaking against racism on a systemic level in America, it has never been popular with the dominant culture.

J. Kameron Carter

I recently started inching through J. Kameron Carter’s book Race: A Theological Account. I’ve found him to be an extremely insightful scholar and theologian as he discusses the origins of racial classification through a theological framing. ¬†He’s a heavy weight, but I promise his insights are worth it. Here is a video of him giving a lecture a Columbia, let me know what ya think.

Urban Retreat Center…

Why is it that when we go on retreats it is always to rural areas? We always go out into the country to meet and hear from God, but why don’t we ever retreat in urban contexts? Can’t we also take time to intentionally dwell in the city to hear God? Does God only speak to us when we go to less populated and less developed spaces? Or is it just a Christian bias that we all have bought into…

Maybe instead of retreating from the city we could actually retreat to the city. There might actually be some advantages to retreating in the urban context! What can God teach us in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of life? How might we see Jesus anew surrounded by poor and systemically oppressed people? How might God shape and transform His people in the urban setting? What could an individual or communities time look like as they seek God submerged in the hood? I would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives on this. Freestyle with me…

Micah 5:2 “A Foreshadow Of Things To Come”

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”

Who might this One be who is prophesied about here in Micah to be born in little old Bethlehem? And while they are going to “come forth” this person’s begginings are from ancient times, “from everlasting”.¬† For it is this One prophesied about that is clearly more than just a prophet or messiah but seems to have no beggining as though He were equated with God.¬† And it is this One who is to be Ruler.

Making Trouble…

Rugged Cross I was really struggling the other day and continue to do so. When I talk to a lot of Christians I feel like I am always “edgy” to some degree.¬† And I begin to wonder if I really ought to be so controversial.¬† I mean, we are the body of Christ, so why am I always stirring the pot. At times, it can seem devicive. And so I must wrestle with myself and my role I often play among the body of Christ.

On the other hand, I read about Christ according to the four gospels.¬† And Jesus while very much a loving person, was constantly creating moments of tension, acting out at times, and at times infuriating some of those around Him.¬† It seems clear that Jesus’ philosphy was comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The religious, political, and economically powerful of his time were always being challenged whether directly or indirectly.¬† Jesus preached a sermon, and afterward they were so offended they wanted to throw him off the cliff.¬† He went to Jerusalem (the big show) and first thing he did was go into the temple stirring up trouble.

His motto for his followers was extremely radical, “take up your cross and follow me”.¬† We water that down now in our time, because most of us do not relate to the threat of being crucified (similar to being lynched in post civil war times in America) because you are a Jew under the control of a larger empire. Mere subversive words, let alone action, could have you hanging on a tree. I could go on and on… my point is that Jesus was extremely controversial (especially with the powerful and comfortable).

I guess I struggle with what this calls us to in our time and context.¬† I know exactly what would logically be concluded as our proper response to imitating such a radical leader. I pretend like I don’t know the answer in hope of not wanting to be held accountable for not living up to that standard. Yet the call to follow Christ remains steadily before me.

Compared to many Christians I feel controversial, compared to Christ I feel Cowardly.¬† Freestyle with me… are you a trouble maker (and for what cause)? Or rather do you think we should all go along so that we can all get along? Finally, after mediating on Jesus’ example left for us, does that impact or shape your response?