If following Jesus has become a boring, monotonous experience for you, as it has for many of us, perhaps it’s because we’re afraid to act on what we claim to believe.
In my last column, I wrote about feeling the rumble of spiritual revolution within my own mind, heart, and soul, and hearing the faint whisper of a battle cry from others as well. Well, the fires of uprising within me are still being stoked, most recently by Gary Haugen in his book, Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian. I read it two nights ago and felt like I had found a good friend who understands exactly where I am. Our conversation began with these words:
Is it okay to bore grownups with the gospel? I ask the question because I sense among many Christians today a subtle but deep discontent. I don’t think they would call it boredom because that sounds too flippant, but I do sense a powerful but largely unspoken sense of disappointment in the way their Christian life is turning out. ..[A]t the end of the day we thought our Christian life would be more than this — somehow larger, more significant, more vivid, more glorious. But it’s not. Driving to church on Sunday feels a bit like Groundhog Day, the movie where Bill Murray’s character is forced to pathetically relive exactly the same day over and over again.
…It had seemed like following Christ was supposed to be a bold adventure of power and beauty and singular importance, but the reality that keeps emerging appears to be something very different. And in very deep ways, it’s disappointing.
He had me at “discontent.” And he kept my attention as he led me through the rough terrain of rationalization, generalization, and self-pity that stands between me and the life of true adventure with the Master I so long for. Excusing my milk-toast mediocrity by blaming circumstances, or reasoning that a lot of other Christians feel this way and manage to make peace with it, or feeling sorry for myself don’t cut it. At the end of the day, I’m forced to deal squarely with the harsh truth: I’m just afraid. Maybe you are, too.
I’m afraid to let go of the ordinary because it’s what I’ve known. But I’m beginning to realize that while ordinary has been a companion, it’s never been a friend. Using our talents and gifts in a way that we can control, in arenas with which we’re familiar, is not the path to overflowing living that we’re all called to. It’s the path to … Well, what we all experience. Predictability. Boredom. Wanting more.
But how do we get from here to there?
Maybe like me you have an education, ministry experience, drive, and passion. Yet I’m asking as the rich young ruler did, “What do I still lack?” Quite simply, courage.
Haugen, who is the founder and president of International Justice Mission, posits that the remedy for this kind of restlessness is to abandon the desire for comfort, safety, and certainty. I see that these things keep my feet firmly planted in what Haugen refers to as the “Christian cul-de-sac of triviality and small fears.”
Sure, we see grave and glaring injustice and know that it’s evil. We can intellectually condemn violence and oppression. But we need to take action. And that is the heart of how he describes courage: taking action even when it is scary and hard, and especially when what we’re moving toward is dangerous and could potentially overtake us. Haugen’s battlefields involve fighting for justice against aggressive evil and violent oppression. Sex trafficking of women and girls, property pirated away from widows, and modern-day slavery — these are his pathways to courage.
It sure sounds exciting, but maybe a little too exotic for most of us. We’ve got bills, laundry, fundraisers, deadlines, children, church, and bad hair days to contend with. But it’s great that someone is taking these things on, right?
Perhaps there needs to be a smaller beginning. If you frequently visit this website, you’ve read articles about Black teenagers living lives of sexual degradation; the brutal death of a teenager at the hands of his neighbors and classmates; urban children being educated in substandard schools; and the urgent need for healing and restoration in our communities. Have you ever responded in any way to anything you’ve read?
I issue a “courage challenge” to every visitor to this site: 1) pick one issue represented by an article, 2) pray about it every day for seven days, and 3) email a friend and ask them to do the same.
We can each find our own pathway to courage, and Jesus will direct us to and meet us on the path. By taking my first step on my path, I see Jesus walking into a brothel, crack house, or slave trade business and bringing freedom to people trapped by the evil of their oppressors.
The most shocking thing of all? Jesus looks like me. And He looks like you, too.
You know what, this makes perfect sense! I’ve been a scared Christian for a long time. Thanks for the awesome challenge to do something about it!
I think there are a lot of people with a lot of discontent – it’s a common theme out there. My friend and I read The Hole in Our Gospel and were greatly challenged, but with small kids at home it is hard to figure out where to start. I like it that you have a practical challenge here – its something everyone can do to get started. Thanks!