(from toothpaste for dinner)
What better way to start my blog with a little cartoon that so describes me and what this blog is going to be about! =)
Idealism is normally associated with young people – because, according to the “wise”, they are those who have not yet experienced the world and thus naively still hold dearly to their idealism.
However, I’m not that young anymore. I am not naive nor ignorant of how this world works. And while I certainly have a lot to experience in this world, I am not without experience in my life. Yet I still retain much of my idealism…
Rather than listen to those (mostly old experienced people who think they are wiser than they truly are) who look down on idealism, I’m so much fonder of these guys’ words:
It is through the idealism of youth that man catches sight of truth, and in that idealism he possesses a wealth which he must never exchange for anything else. (Dr. Albert Schweitzer)
The great challenge of adulthood is holding on to your idealism after you lose your innocence. (Bruce Springsteen)
The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them. (Henry David Thoreau)
[Ahhh…no one beats Thoreau for wit, humor and true wisdom! =)]
Yes, this blog will contain a lot of youthful idealistic thoughts. As it’s not easy retaining one’s idealism in this world, there will be lots of times I struggle. Struggle to live a life as close to the ideal and perfect lifestyle that I believe God desires all Christians to live. We will all fail because we’re not perfect and never will be in this age. However, the call is to strive towards perfection – i.e. towards living that ideal life. The call is to deny oneself, take up the cross and truly follow Jesus. The call is to trust in Him, rather than in our own strength. It is to love all – even if that meant dying for others, which Jesus did. It is a call to pursue justice for the oppressed and suffering, to show mercy to the poor, naked and hungry. The call is not to build our own kingdom nor to lay up treasures for ourselves in this age. Rather, it is to build His kingdom.
Simply put, the call is to live out that idealistic and ideal life. It is certainly nothing less than that. Surely, striving to fulfill that call in a fallen world is a difficult thing. Yet being pragmatic for Christ is not an option. And the early Church knew that. They lived a radically idealistic life – a life I pray I’ll be able to live one day soon:
All believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:32, 34-35)
As a fellow idealist, it makes me chuckle that you concluded your post with two passages from Acts which, for the last 13 years, have “touched a chord” that resonates in me more than just about any other passages of Scripture.
Again, as a fellow idealist, I am going to attempt to actually “trump” your conception of idealism. I was with you in this post up until your last sentence where you used the word “radical”. In the last few years, it has occurred to me that when folks like John Piper and David Platt throw out references to a “radical Christian lifestyle”, as much as I am favorable toward the vision they cast, I am not so comfortable with calling it “radical”. Take for example the rich man being instructed to sell all he possessed to give to the poor, and following after Jesus without encumbrance. Was that a call to “be radical”? I don’t think so. I think that was a call to basic, “normal” discipleship. If we idealists are not careful in our use of the term “radical”, we can unwittingly strengthen the compromising pragmatist in their conception of what is “normal”.
Likewise with the cited reference from Acts. Although I know that many Christian’s view of the “Apostolic Age” would differ from mine, personally I would argue that the placement of these passages in the span of redemptive history is because they demonstrate a “model” of what “normal” life of Jesus’ church is “supposed” to look like during this harvest time subsequent to the fulfillment of the Feast of Pentecost. A seed contains the essence of what is to come, and the germinal state of the church is “no exception”!
Here is probably the biggest area I would disagree with John Piper, who is one of my favorite preachers to listen to. I disagree with his theology of revival in which his posits two categories of thought: “steady state Christianity” with which we should be content, and a “heightened state” during revival. As I look through Scripture for a systematic “theology of revival”, things that immediately come to mind are the reforms under Hezekiah and Josiah, and the letters to the seven churches of revelation.
Regarding OT “revivals” the “steady state” of the church was one of sinful idolatry, and “revivals” were repentance away from conformity to the pattern of the world, unto the “normal” relationship that Israel was supposed to be having with her God all the time.
Regarding the seven churches, I would briefly note the connection between Rev 3:1b-2 and the literal, etymological meaning of what it is to be “re-vived”. In the letter to Ephesus in Rev 2, I believe “the height from which you have fallen” and the “first works” both refer back to the expected “normal” state of the church in Acts 2 & 4, and perhaps more specifically to the original zeal and expectations of whole-hearted devotion displayed in Ephesus itself (Acts 19, see also chp. 20:17ff).
Personally, I am not a big fan of “praying for revival”. I think we would be better off to realize the depth of sin that our own hearts and our Christian culture have conformed to and fallen into, look back to the model of how “we” (the church) were and first, and repent. Revival is not a heightened state, revival is coming back to life after having been dead.