I've been thinking lately about what it means to be a Christian and maybe even more so, what it means to see the world as Christian. And while this post isn't about to be an exhaustive, i hope it stirs up some conversation about the diversity in what it might look like to be a christian in the world, or maybe even, how we can see people and activity in the world as distinctively Christian.
I must admit, I far too often hear people say, 'to be a christian, you need x" and yet, when i look around the sorts and colors and practices of Christ in the world, they seems to be made incarnate in all kinds of people and activities. And isn't it the Spirit of God working in and through people for the redemption of all things that which defines 'Christian in the world' and/or even the world as Christ's cosmos?
I've beem thinking of three (potential) ways of seeing 'Christian' in the world:
1. Sacramental- Those communities or persons or activities who would say they practice and participate in regular community that is shaped by the distinct practice of ritual and sacrement springing from the tradition of the church throughout history. These kinds of christians or christian activity maybe 'high' church (catholic, orthodox, anglican, episcopal) or 'low' church (baptist, methodists, vineyard, etc) but the disticntiveness lay in the practice of sacrament in the center of the community.
2. Sociological- These are newer forms and practioners of the church who would by and large say their primary desire is to be christian in the world 'relevantly'. Many of the shapes that these forms of christian in the world might take will be very different. Theologically and philosophically they may be quite varied on the place of sacrements in community or even the place and appearance of worship in community. However, the activites and beliefs of these people and activites still have the proverbial 'christian flag' waving about them. And while they may not say it, these activites still struggle with how God is working to 'redeem all things'? Is it enough to give bread in Christ's name? Or should we not also make sure they get Jesus too? Or is this even a false dichotomy?
3. Ethical- These would be people who for the most part would not want to be affilitated with Christianity, or are not affiliated with it, and yet find themselves living out the Good News of the Kingdom of God in their culture and context. The Spirit of God in the world compels them forward working for issues of justice, goodness, and change. They practice a different-but-similar value set with those things at the heart of christian goodness; however, this message of hope, justice and peace for all mankind is rooted firmly in the heart of their lives.
Some have pointed out as I've processed this that in fact these may just be three ways of seeing the same thing or that people might be able to be sacrementally ethical. I'd agree. But i wonder what it would actually do for the church's practice and partnership in the world to parts and the people of the world as working for Christ and not a something out there on a completely different plain.
What do you think? Is it helpful to try to reconcile these things? Does it dilute the power or place of distinctively 'christian' activity in the world or does it deepen it?