19 Jul 2007

eating in church - consumers in the pews.

Christianity is the invitation and challenge to live – zoe – really live. The Greek word zoe which is used to describe eternal life is different from bios which is used to denote simply breathing and hopefully, moving. To zoe is to really live. It is resurrection life – a life no longer encumbered by the grave clothes of sin, the past, and death. It is a life so attractive, so dynamic, so impactful that it was once described as ‘turning the world upside down’ (acts 17v6 ASV).

Everywhere the gospel has been preached and lived, the forces of hell and the darkness of the human heart has tried to prevail over it. Thankfully, Jesus has so assured us: I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt 16 )

Jesus’ assurance follows on the God-given utterance by his burly disciple Peter that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. This means that no church or Christian should sit on our laurels and hide behind nice sounding theological-isms such as ‘once saved always saved’ or whatever else when clearly our hearts and our lives are not proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ and in his life, message and mission, we have our life, message and mission. Zoe life is to share and live out Christ’s life. In apostle Paul’s lingo, ‘Christ in us is the hope of glory’.

Mere words will not suffice as we learn from Peter – he who uttered such divinely inspired confession will soon betray His friend and master.

Some years ago, it was popular to speak of Singaporeans pursuring 5Cs: cash, car, condo, and so on. I borrow from this a warning for us to beware of 5 Cs that are making our faith and witness anemic.

1. Consumerism
Consumerism is the dominant value of life today. It determines so much of our life. From the time a baby arrives, we are bombarded with decisions of what to buy and use. This does not let up as we choose schools, careers, partners and eventually, the place to deposit our ashen selves. To be alive today is to consume. This is bios today. When we are not deeply aware of this, we can trade in our precious zoe for bios.
Signs of consumerism abound in church today. The locus of worship is that we come together to adore and praise our God, thank Him for the gift of salvation, and celebrate our family in Christ – proclaiming the good news of the gospel. Instead, with our consumerist, demanding selves, we get stuck in intransigence over matters of style, seating arrangements and Holy Communion liturgy. We measure each other by worldly standards and enter the church not to be changed but to exact our expectations and dues from pastor and fellow alike. We measure church health and growth by output and wrongly equate maturity with ‘ministry’; often perpetuating the Singaporean busy-ness syndrome.

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