What it really means to be a Christian

Listen to Brennan Manning in The Furious Longing of God

How is it then that we’ve come to imagine that Christianity consists primarily in what we do for God?  How has this come to be the good news of Jesus?  Is the kingdom that He proclaimed to be nothing more than a community of men and women who go to church on Sunday, take an annual spiritual retreat, read their Bibles every now and then, vigorously oppose abortion, don’t watch x-rated movies, never use vulgar language, smile a lot, hold doors open for people, root for the favorite team, and get along with everybody?  Is that why Jesus went through the bleak and bloody horror of Calvary?  Is that why He emerged in shattering glory from the tomb?  Is that why He poured out His Holy Spirit on the church?  To make men and women with better morals?

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that he lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creations.  Not to make people with better morals, but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love.  This, my friends,  is what it really means to be a Christian.  Our religion never begins with what we do for God.  It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus.

There’s so much in this that I love.  There’s so much in this that I want to communicate to those whom I lead in the way of following him.  Yet, still, if I had to pick one phrase as my favourite here, it would be this:

to create a community of prophets and professional lovers

I don’t necessarily like all that the word ‘professional’ with its various shades of meaning, especially in this context, evokes but there is something about the concept of ‘a community of prophets and professional lovers’ all the same.  It’s a sense that these are people who are given all out to the love of the One who lived, died and rose again, that not only have they given everything to his love but also that they love in a way which is more than a simple pastime but rather an art undertaken to an achingly high standard, a labour of the heart.

But how can I communicate this to us who have been churchified, we whose senses have been dulled from over-exposure to churches which promote surface niceness and identikit, bland Christian lives?  How might this truth break in violently upon our hearts, that he did not come that we might lead better lives…that he came to sweep us up into the life of the One who is ‘extravagant, furious love’?

What if we believed that he came not for us to blend into dull conformity but to bring out the God-colours in our lives, to release us to live fully as the people he created us to be, people entranced by the glory of God in the face of Christ?

What if we caught that vision, if we heard the call to ‘enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ’?

Wouldn’t that be worth following Jesus for?

And wouldn’t that make church something worth fighting for, this formation of a community of prophets and professional lovers who are lost in the extravagant, furious love of God?


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