Swimming Upstream

My son, Andrew, who just graduated with philosophy and economics degrees from Covenant College just sent me a book that he really liked entitled Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. The subtitle is “A provocative Christian assessment of culture and ministry for people who know that something is wrong”. It’s a fascinating read so far.

The opening chapter records what the authors deem as an event of great historical and cultural significance. One evening in 1963 (the year of my birth, by the way) the Fox Theater in Greenville, SC opened on Sunday in defiance of the state’s time-honored “blue laws”. This was a seismic cultural shift say the authors. Greenville was a bastion of Christian conservatism- and still is in many ways- and the Fox Theater decided to go head to head with the prevailing culture. The authors say that before this event, Christians could somehow believe that they were in charge and had created a Christian culture.

The authors go on to say that Christians had believed this since the days of the Roman Emperor Constantine who, in 313 A.D., made the famous “Edict of Milan”. This edict recognized the legitimacy of Christianity thus ending persecution. Christianity became a publicly accepted and even endorsed belief.

I don’t think I need to convince many of you that Christianity is enjoying great cultural disapproval at this time. The Fox Theater moment of 1963 and its implications have spread far and wide. However, let’s not overstate the case in that we still enjoy great freedoms here in this nation and for that we remain grateful. We are far from being an Iraq. That being said, it’s not the same culture of generations ago.

That’s why I like this quote from Resident Aliens in regard to this cultural shift: “…we American Christians are at last free to be faithful in a way that makes being a Christian today an exciting adventure” (p.18). Do you think of the Christian life as an “exciting adventure”? Interesting concept! How does this work? The gospel calls us to be counter cultural in so many ways. What we treasure, what our goals are, how we view family, our perspective on possessions and generosity, how we treat the Lord’s Day- all are opportunities to swim upstream. We need to challenge ourselves to see how we are too easily blending in. Again, it ought to surface in what we value and prioritize in life.

Swimming upstream is always an adventure. That’s why we need the Church and the church family so much. Not that we become an isolated tribe with impenetrable walls around us but that we gather to be encouraged and equipped to be salt and light where God has placed us. We link arms with others who are swimming alongside us. May God help us live the adventure together and encourage each other along the way.