Over the last several weeks I have been reading the book “The Tangible Kingdom.” This book has seriously rocked my world in many many ways. Today I read a section on what it means to live out the gospel together. The author’s suggest four practices that, if lived out by a community of believers, will help them have the right posture and be in correct position to gain the hearts of God-seeking Sojourners around them. They are:
- Leaving: Leaving is about “replacing personal or Christian activities with time spent building relationships with people in the surrounding culture” (pg. 127). Sadly, this is very difficult for most Christians because we have wrongly believed that we must remove ourselves from the surrounding culture. Before Jesus went to the cross He prayed this prayer for believers. He said: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one … As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:15,18). We need to be “out there” and when we are, conversations will start. We can do this by: having dinners with people, doing what we love with others and looking for chances to talk.
- Listening: Listening “is watching and sensitively responding to the unspoken and spoken needs of Sojourners in ways that demonstrate sincere interest” (pg. 132). Jesus was the master listener. He didn’t give pat answers or formulas. He just listened and that is what we need to do as well. Trying taking one person out for coffee and work on “only” asking questions. Note what happens when you focus all your attention on someone for an hour.
- Living among: Living among means “participating in the natural activities of the culture around you, with whimsical holiness” (pg. 136). This is a tough one to live out. We know we are to be in the world but not of it. There is a great tension here. The authors suggest this solution: “… we’re going to have to learn all the things we can do instead of limiting ourselves based on a few things we’re warned to avoid … the list is far longer on the things we’re told to do than things we’re told to avoid” (pg. 137-138). We need to focus on being like Jesus with those Jesus would have been with.
- Loving without strings: We don’t serve in order to get people to respect us or like us or so that they will accept our God. We are to love with no strings attached – hopes, desires, fervent prayer, yes – but no strings at all attached. I love this quote from the authors: “Learning to receive God’s free, no-strings-attached offer and then graciously living a life to extend blessing to others without charge and without expectation is different. When we become comfortable with unconditional live, I think we will find that it does witness correctly to who God is. And it’s power naturally draws people in” (pg. 143-144). People gravitate towards unconditional love!
Of course, like everything in life, each of these four habits of living out has a corresponding internal resistance. The authors present these four internal resistances:
- Selfishness is the enemy of “Leaving.”
- Fear is the enemy of “Living among.”
- Arrogance is the enemy of “Listening.”
- Expectations are the enemy of “Loving” (pg, 144).
How have selfishness, fear, arrogance and expectations hindered you from living out the gospel?