This Beautiful Mess – Part Three

January 18, 2008

books / church / ministry

With part three of This Beautiful Mess, I decided to write a post about the rest of the book by section, rather than by chapter. This is mainly because of lack of time to read while not sitting in doctor’s offices, or in front of monitors that don’t work. I mean come on, I don’t even have time to design this website.

So in part three, Rick McKinley begins to apply his ideas of the kingdom to the way it plays itself out in the world. He stands against the all-too-common idea that the kingdom of God is all about waiting around for death so we can sit around in heaven.

As a personal aside, I don’t like thinking about heaven. At various times in my life, because I’m a nerd, I have sat down to think about it. To think about a time period that never ends. I don’t like the idea. It freaks me out. In the way that quantum physics will freak you out if you sit down to think about it.

In any case, the only times that the idea of heaven really strikes me is when I have significant encounters with the presence of God. Then, I can point at something that is tangible to me and say to my self, “Self, that’s what heaven is like.” And that’s a great thing. But that’s not the kingdom of God, or at least not all of it; the kingdom of God is bringing those things into the world, and that idea is part of the core of what God is doing in our culture with things like the emerging church.

So, in this section, which is the last section of the book, there are a lot of stories about the people of Imago Dei, and the causes they are part of and the people they touch. And this is what it’s about: they are taking the relationship they have with Jesus, the knowledge they have gained of his heart, and taking it to the poor and the marginalized, and to all the hurts of creation. While being willing to sacrifice, share, and try to learn how to “strategically suffer” and learn from those who do strategically suffer in order to do so.

The part about strategic suffering is what grabbed me. One of my favorite books of all time is called The God Chasers. It spoke, and continues to speak, to me in ways that few books have. In one part, there is a discussion about the Western church, with all of our facades and selfishness and consumerism and struggles for useless political power, compared to the church in the rest of the world.

The rest of the world faces countless issues. Pain and suffering and torture and death. Some of it is caused by us in the West, and some of it is not. Even as it faces these issues, though, it is not stagnant. Culture in the two-thirds world is changing. It is moving into a post-colonial age, and parts of it are skipping the modernism that has so bogged us down in the West. This is a powerful thing for the message of Jesus, and for the power of God to move in the church.

But in that discussion in The God Chasers, there is a part where world leaders who strategically suffer for the Cross pray for us in the West.

The idea, there, is this:

They see our arrogance toward the rest of the world, our addiction to pleasure and comfort, our culture of sensuality and excess, which make it hard to fathom many of Christ’s teachings – they see these not as evidence of superiority, but of disadvantage and poverty. They mourn our deep losses and have told us that they pray for us about these very things.

They pray for us in our affluence, because in our affluence we are poor. We don’t get it. We are so busy fighting for the Constitution to fit with our theology that it doesn’t occur to us that we might gain something if we lost our power and our sense of superiority. If we learned how to suffer with others.

When I was in college, I had an English teacher that told us regularly to, “Take on the pain of the world every day.” This touches me every time I think about it, and it’s an amazing thing to try to grasp the power of that statement. To try to be changed by it.