Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Friday, April 13, 2012

What if Christianity became Beautiful Again?

Brian Zahnd's starts his new book  Beauty Will Save the World by telling the story of Prince Kiev, a pagan ruler of Russia who lived a thousand years ago.  Seeking to discover a new religion that would help unify his people he sent dignitaries out to the surrounding realms.  These ambassadors reported back a number of faiths.  Some "were dour  and austere...others were abstract and theoretical."  However when they reported on the Christian faith found in Constantinople:

"Then we went to Constantinople and they led us to the place where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth for on earth there is no such vision of beauty and we do not know how to describe it; we only know that God dwells among men.  We cannot forget that beauty." 
When I look at some of the focus of the church at large in recent years I wonder, "Where has that beauty gone?"

I recently observed a little online Internet debate involving a lot of faith based Christian answers to some non-Christian's  "jabs" at Christianity.  One of the participants speaking for the "Christian" side admitted their lack of "apologetic" skills and wished they could be better at this kind of debate.

I stayed out of this particular exchange but for me, I had to disagree.

If this person had been C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharais, or even Jesus Christ himself there is no interjection, no pithy comment, no silver bullet statement that was going to be uttered that was going to change anybody's position among this group of debaters.  Everyone's minds, on both sides, were made up, unshakable, and equally dismissive of each other...

...and I realized this was not only "not beautiful" was "ugly".

When did the sharing of our faith become "ugly"?

What happened?

And where have I been guilty of adding to that ugliness?

Speaking of Jesus have you ever noticed he never really engaged in debates or "apologetics"?

I mean really...  Had he never read Josh McDowell or listened to Kirk Cameron?

In fact rather than be a "defender" Jesus tended to choose silence when asked questions by people who had other agendas.

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.    Matthew 27:12-13
  When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort.  He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him.  Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.  Luke 27: 8-12
I'm pretty sure these days God is not looking for "Defenders of the Faith" as much as he's looking for disciples who will 'Love God with with all their heart, soul, and mind and then out of that devotion,  Love their Neighbor as much as themselves.'

The world is growing accustomed to an image of the church that is angry and defensive.  We read books and listen to sermons equipping the Christian believer against all attacks against our faith but in the process, we lose the beauty inherent in that faith. Then we politicize our Christianity in a vain attempt to force others to conform to our morality.... know, because forcing people to behave in a certain way against their will has ALWAYS been so successful in the past...

But what would happen if people saw that following Christ was beautiful!

Brian Zahnd says in Beauty will Save the World:
"Beautiful!  Our task is not to protest the world into a certain moral conformity, but to attract the world to the saving beauty of Christ.  We do this best, not by protest or political action, but by enacting a beautiful presence in the world.  The Western Church has had a four century experiment with viewing salvation in a scientific and mechanistic manner, presenting it as a plan, system, or formula.  It would be better if we returned to viewing salvation as a song we sing."
Let's begin asking the question when we engage as "the church"; "Is what we're doing beautiful?"

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