Today we will conclude our Christians and Politics series and leave it behind as we move into advent. There is much more that could be said about this (for example, this blog post at The Meeting House blog) but we're going to conclude with some wisdom from Lesslie Newbigin.
Lesslie Newbigin was a British clergyman and theologian. He and his wife served as missionaries to India from 1936-1974. Upon their return to Britain, he saw how much his homeland had changed. That change and his missionary experience opened him up to allowing his theology to change his perspective on his own home country. As the world was changing, he realized the life of Jesus' followers (both individually and as the church) is the life of a missionary no matter where we live. It is the way the church was always supposed to be. A healthy missionary mentality embraces and loves the land and people that one lives among while always, in some way, remaining citizens of another place.
Christians had the luxury of not thinking this way because our religion was, for about 1700 years, placed at the centre of "the affairs of the city" (politik). But in the most recent decades, the centrality of Christianity has been fast waning. Shopping centres, office buildings, and shopping centres have replaced churches at the centre of cities and towns. To many there is a sense that, despite an increased emphasis on "political correctness" churches and Christians are fair game for comedians and critics. How are we to live in this world.
Newbigin watched fellow Christians fighting to maintain a place of power and significance in their world and realized how opposed that was to the way of Jesus and the early church. His writing and observations have served as an encouragement to those of us who have been forced to come to grips with our place in the world. He has helped many to see that we should in some way feel that we have lost our home because we belong to a different kingdom from another place. Our security should be in Christ, not through having special privileges (or even rights). We could completely and genuinely lose our freedom of worship (which is nowhere close to being true for us) and still be the church God has called us to be.
To close, here are some quotations from Lesslie Newbigin that may encourage you as you seek to live the way of Jesus within the world in which God has placed you.
The church is not meant to call men and women out of the world into a safe religious enclave but to call them out in order to send them back as agents of God's kingship.
Do things that will get people asking questions, the answer to which is the Gospel.
The business of the church is to tell and embody a story.
The victory of the Church over the power which was embodied in the Roman imperial system was not won by seizing the levers of power: it was won when the victims knelt down in the Colosseum and prayed in the name of Jesus for the Emperor.