Thursday, May 27, 2010

Transforming Power or Foolishness?

I wrote the other day about Paul's call to adopt the attitude of Christ, the attitude of humility and servanthood. In thinking further about the implications of this, I wonder if we are also tempted to not adopt this attitude because we fear that it won't really be "marketable." After all, the world around us seems to respect prestige, power and success. The world doesn't idolize the poor, the downcast and the suffering. We feel pity for them at best. But we don't have magazines and television programs devoted to following their every move in life. So, we could argue, if we are going to reach the world for Christ, we must present him in terms that are appealing. We must emphasize his power, or his blessing, or his ability to help us succeed. But will such a message really transform the world? Will it transform peoples' hearts? Paul didn't tell us that we need to adopt the attitude of the world and its values. He told us to have the attitude that Jesus had.

Paul also reminds us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. While I am all for removing unnecessary obstacles to the Gospel, I am utterly opposed to presenting a message that panders to our cultural weaknesses. I think part of the power of the Gospel lies precisely in its call to be radically counter-cultural (and this not just for western cultures, for the call to humility and servanthood may well be even more counter-cultural in many Asian societies). This power, however, is not normally one that produces quick results. A Gospel of humble servanthood will often be rejected, precisely because this is not the ideal for which most societies strive. Rather, the power of humble servanthood, combined with radical love, is like the leaven of which Jesus spoke. It works its way into the society and slowly transforms it, one person or family at a time. We may impress others through displays of power and wealth. We may even win some converts in this manner. But we will not really be agents of transformation.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...

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