Didn’t get a chance to update last week on an extremely unfortunate event here in Columbus, and finished up Gabe Lyons’ book this morning, so I want to combine a few thoughts here.
First of all, last Wednesday local news outlets reported the hard-to-fathom story of a 25-year-old mentally ill man who showed up in a West-side neighborhood in the middle of the night, naked, knocking on doors asking for help. One of the owners’ of the homes called the police, but the police couldn’t find him, so everyone went back to bed – the policeman back to his patrol. The next day, one of the neighbors found the man, dead, having frozen to death. You can read the entire story here.
The story has created quite an stir and, locally, much debate has swirled about whether or not the people in these homes did the right thing. After all, the man was bloodied, it was the middle of the night, they had to protect their families first, right?
We’ve been wrestling with Jesus’ tough teachings on discipleship at our church this year. One of Jesus’ most challenging is when he states “anyone who loves his father or mother, sister or brother, son or daughter more than me cannot be my disciple” or more drastically “unless you hate your father/mother/son/daughter you cannot be my disciple.” If these texts don’t have a direct impact on this recent event in Columbus, I’m not sure what it means.
I have wrestled, personally, with what I would have done in this situation. Let’s face it, there aren’t many times when we see such a direct parallel to biblical teachings as this one, “When I was naked you clothed me . . .” There’s no exceptions to the clause “I was naked and you clothed me . . . once you knew your family was safe and your matters are in order” – all those exception clauses are noticeably absent. I hope I would have opened my home, as difficult as that proposition would be. At the very minimum, I would have brought blankets from my house and wrapped him in them until help arrived.
Security is a difficult idol to overcome. I will not forget this episode for a very long time.
On a different note, I wanted to say a word or two about Gabe Lyons’ recent book The Next Christians. It was on my Amazon list and I got it for Christmas. I’m trying to get a few books in before I have to start my readings for school. I found myself thinking about Lyons book constantly as I worked through it over the past few days. In it, he continues the ongoing conversation of the future of Christianity and suggests a picture of the future of the Western Church (or the “next Christians.” He manages, in this offering, to promote an optimistic and inspiring picture of the next Christians. His subtitle provides the pretext for his argument: “The Good News about the End of Christian America.”
Throughout the book Lyons offers vivid stories of young Christians who are actively working as “restorers” of creation – one of the two aspects of the Gospel Christianity has lost in its recent past. The stories are vast and cover a wide breadth of society. My only point of hesitancy in his stories is that they do tend to be “extreme” (lots of stories from large metropolitan areas that are poignant, but far removed from many of us living in less metro-trendy areas). He does go out of his way to acknowledge this fact and emphasize that we are all called to be active restorers, but a few stories from “normal” people would have driven the point home a bit more.
That, slight criticism aside, Lyons proves to be quite fluent in his comment on the next Christians. And, contrary to much material that has been published over the past decade, sounds a horn of incredible optimism. His final chapter makes any Christian want to stand up and get busy. His call to action and depth is both refreshing and inspiring. I think Lyons’ work is a needed resource for Christians around the country who are motivated to act on their faith, and need some practical advice and mentoring. In The Next Christians, Lyons’ does just that. He offers six important qualities of the next Christians (all things to be emulated) following a concise refocusing of the Gospel message calling Christians to be “restorers” rather than the “Separtists” we have often been guilty of. In the end, Lyons is calling all Christians to be motivated and encouraged by this shifting of tectonic plates. I think his words speak a loud motivating tone:
“For you, the call is literally within your grasp. It’s the place you show up each day and the problems you encounter in the process. Possibly for you, it’s putting a dent in the never-ending cycle of poverty that destroys so many lives, neighborhoods and nations. Or creatively addressing the malnutrition, poor health and diseases that’s wrecking so many families. Or tutoring, mentoring, and fostering fatherless children. Perhaps the addiction to drugs, alcohol, career advancement, affluence or pornography is what enslaves and torments your friends most. Whatever it is that’s broken, whatever you see wrong, remember – God’s intention and method of restoration is to use you to bring his redeeming love to the world.” (p. 203 – 204)
Yeah . . . that pretty much says it all. The Next Christians, definitely worth checking out.