Josh j Smith

people of God
June 26, 2008, 2:27 pm
Filed under: theology | Tags: , , ,

The perception I get from the conversations I have with some of the Kmer people, is that America is the “land of opportunity” still.  It seems as though they gaze upon me similar to how I gaze upon an iPhone.  I guess this is what it means to covet.  But my goal here is not to convict the Kmer people of coveting, but to express the tension between a person’s desire for gospel against their desire for a western lifestyle.  This tension is worth our time because it has implications for how we are missionaries to foreign countries.    

I am not one to judge another’s salvation, but I feel it is wrong to ignore the implications of my citizenship upon people and the gospel.  when a group of white middle class Americans decide to join forces and inhabit a country, similar to Cambodia’s conditions, for the sake of planting churches and spreading the gospel, I question whether the native people become Christians for the kingdom of God or the empire of western civilization.  Thus, their commitment to Christianity is merely a means to becoming American.     

My problem with being American is from a global context.  We are one of the most feared and powerful nations.  As far as land size and resources, we are an extremely blessed country, but extremely under populated for how much land we have and how much resources we consume (waste).  In a global context, I think America are the rich who are getting richer, and countries like Cambodia are the poor who are getting poorer.  And we all know what it feels like to be poor (even when we are not) we gaze upon the rich as though they have found life.  At the same time we all know what it is like to be rich.  We all have those possessions that we want only for ourselves and we will do anything to make sure it stays that way.  We develop individual defense programs.   

I began to soften my blow toward American by comparing westernization with ancient Israel’s invasions when they were moving into the land of Canon, the Promise Land.  I thought about God’s missional prerogative to reveal himself as the God of gods through the language of war.  I remembered Rehab’s faith and commitment to Israel and their God because she heard not what Israel did to the other nations, but what Israel’s God did to the other nations; the other gods. 

I began to think that maybe God has a missional prerogative with westernization.  While   people might become christian to be more western, God can easily change our means to achieve personal glory to become his means for his glory.  In other words, God is not too small to transform the desire for the people to be western into people of his kingdom.  

After this epiphany, I still felt uncomfortable with my citizenship.  I also realized that the western movement is not a good comparison with Israel’s entrance into the Promise Land because Israel was a nation of slaves, nomads, refugees, they were a bunch of no-namers shaming the strong, wealthy, and proud.  So,I have decided that it is impossible to be an American Christian (or whatever you want to call someone who follows and has faith in Jesus).  The problem is whatever I do it is still from an American perspective.  

In the midst of this tension where I think the beauty and mystery of the kingdom of God resides.  I think this is what Jesus meant when he said you cannot see the kingdom.  The kingdom is within.  When Jesus prayed that his disciples would be in the world, but not of it – I think it might have been this issue.  

Since I belong to Christ and am part of his kingdom.  God’s kingdom allows me to observe my context from a distance in order to engage it with gospel in a language that resonates with my neighbor.  I am of Christ, but in America.  I am of the kingdom of God, but in Baltimore MD.   




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“My problem with being American is from a global context. We are one of the most feared and powerful nations. As far as land size and resources, we are an extremely blessed country, but extremely under populated for how much land we have and how much resources we consume (waste).”

You sell your country short. While land size and resources certainly didn’t hurt, they are not what gave America her success. America is as wealthy as she is because of her values. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the belief– a sincere one– that all people are equal; these are the things that led to America being where she is today. People in America are free to be themselves, and thus free to be their best. This is nothing to be ashamed of. There is a great deal of good in what America is.

As for consuming being equivalent to wasting, that sort of thinking is the first step toward sloth– a sin you want nothing to do with, believe me. What was God’s very first command to mankind? It was to be fruitful and multiply. God wants us to thrive. Moreover, He wants us to be engaged in the world, and active in it. We are not to sit still and meditate, conserving our food and water all day. We are to go out and do things and be with people.

That requires consumption, but consumption is no bad thing; it is life itself. When we hoard what we have and shut off and stop exchanging, the system grinds to a halt. Take the example of CO2, since that gets maligned so badly these days. The more active I am, the more CO2 I exhale. Plants need CO2 to live, and in turn exhale oxygen. The only way for me to stop emitting CO2 is for me to stop doing things; to stop all exchange. This will starve the plants of the gas they need, resulting in less oxygen and less fruit. I won’t be consuming as much O2 and fruit anyway, and the whole system goes into a downward spiral. God’s creation diminishes instead of thrives.

So don’t be afraid to consume. God’s commands amount to a mandate to consume. The Khmer people– and everyone else– will not have the benefit of your unique self if you don’t get out there and exchange with them, and exchange is what consumption looks like in the big picture.

Comment by alamanach

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