Ken’s Thursday Blog
Let the Redeemed of the Lord, Live Like it!
The book is over 25 years old now, but it is still relevant. It is called Resident Aliens written by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. The book is considered a provocative Christian assessment of culture and ministry for people who know that something is wrong.
Resident Aliens discusses the nature of the Church (the body and not the building) and its relationship to the surrounding culture. It argues that churches should focus on developing Christian life and community rather than attempting to reform secular culture. Hauerwas and Willimon reject the idea that America is a Christian nation; instead, Christians should see themselves as “residents aliens” in a foreign land. The authors maintain that, instead of transforming government, the role of Christians is to live lives that model the love of Christ. Rather than trying to convince others to change their ethics, Christians should model a new set of ethics grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
I have been musing about this concept to myself for some time and invite you to join me in thinking and discussing what this means for us as citizens of Christ’s kingdom in the culture in which we find ourselves.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10 NIV). Note that Paul doesn’t say that they once lived in darkness. He says instead that they “were once darkness.” Darkness wasn’t external but internal—it penetrated to the core of their being. But Christ has reversed that so that they are light. That light now illuminates their lives to the center of their being. Keep in mind that darkness can never dispel light. It always works the other way around, as light always dispels darkness; light always wins. Light and darkness are often used in both Old and New Testaments as metaphors for right and wrong (or good and evil).
Note Paul’s admonition, “…you are now light in the Lord, so live like it!” (my paraphrase). As Hauerwas and Willimon state later in their book, “The only way for the world to know that it is being redeemed is for the church to point to the Redeemer by being a redeemed people!” The way for the world to know that it needs redeeming is for the Church to live a life of light as an alternative to what the world offers.
Resident Aliens affirms that “Christianity is an invitation to be part of an alien people who make a difference because they see something that cannot otherwise be seen without Christ. Right living is more the challenge than right thinking.” The Church needs to assert again that “God, not nations, rules the world, that the boundaries of God’s kingdom transcend those of Caesar, and that the main political task of the church is the formation of people who see the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay the price.”
Mark Allen Powell wrote in an online article, “The image of the Church as the body of Christ, however, implies something more than imitation. The Church does not simply ask ‘What would Jesus do?’ and then seek to follow his example. Rather, the Church becomes the physical medium through which the risen Lord continues to do what the earthly Jesus did. The risen Lord Jesus Christ acts and speaks through the Church.”
So, where do we start? Perhaps we begin with the assertion, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” That story is a story of God’s faithfulness to call us out of our darkness (Psalm 107, NIV). But we need to follow up with Paul’s words, “…you are now light in the Lord, so live like it!” (my paraphrase). We know that when Jesus established his Church, he didn’t have in mind an institution. He had in mind a revolution. His bride was not to be a building; she was to be a shining light in the darkness—a people who were holy and set apart.
What does it mean to be a “redeemed” people of God? Based on Hauerwas and Willimon’s thoughts, it means being a church that is clearly visible to the world, in which people are faithful to their promises, love their enemies, tell the truth, honor the poor, suffer for righteousness, and thereby testify to the amazing community-creating power of God. It is a church with no interest in withdrawing from the world, but not surprised when its witness evokes hostility from the world.
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts.