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Our neighborhood invitation

I’ve been slowly reading through this large book about the Inklings before bed. It’s a fascinating look at how group collaboration complicates life and yet also makes work and life richer. C.S. Lewis was one of the best known Inklings and he was a famous apologist. However, at the height of that branch of his work, he moved into other forms of expressing his faith. He told Dorothy Sayers, “a doctrine never seems dimmer to me than when I have just successfully defended it.”1 We should be able to give a reasoned defense of what we believe and why. Many of us have moved well beyond that to something else entirely. 

In an age that prioritizes the mind, we have grown accustomed to thinking that God is an idea to be defended. We are constantly talking in terms of “enemies” and “threats.” We go on the offensive. We draw up battle plans. Our engagement with our own faith is distant like pawns on a cheeseboard or papers on a desk. 

But God is a reality to be lived. In Sunday’s email, I talked about this. The God that made the world and sustains it is not quivering in fear of legislation or swaying societal morals. God is not frightened when someone is unconvinced of God’s own reality. The God that redeemed the world, coming in the flesh, moving into the neighborhood as Eugene Peterson said, is not asking us to hold harsh lines and scream in His name. 

He’s asking for meals, for love of neighbor, for lives captivated by holiness, for hearts ready to reimagine the world and recreate it one tiny act at a time. That God is interested, not in power, but in sacrifice and invitation. We are invited to live in the reality of God and invite others to come along with us.

We have to choose. As Christians in 2022, we can view everyone and everything as an enemy. We can spend our time defending God. We can live in fear of threats that will bring the demise of Christianity.2 We can form arguments. We can debate online. We can draw lines around who’s in and who’s out and who’s questionable. Or we can move into the neighborhood, inhabiting love, acting out of goodness and justice. We can pick up a shovel or a paintbrush or some lessons plans instead of gathering up weapons of fear and hate. But we cannot do both. We live as neighbors or we show up as a swat team. 

Does that mean there aren’t enemies? Of course not. The cosmic story of the Bible is that God’s good creation is assailed by an enemy of God who tempted and still tempts God’s own image bearer to disbelieve who God is and what God has said. That is an enemy beyond our power, defeated only by the cross and silenced by the final return of Christ. These people who surround us though? As long as they draw breath, they are invited to live in the reality of God as well. That is the invitation we hold out to them. It’s hard to make that offer when we are suiting up with our weapons.

1 This quote is on page 314.
2 There is nothing this powerful.

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