This is a post I've been wanting to write for a while and when James left his comment on a previous post I thought maybe I should finally try to write my thoughts out.
The movie "The Second Chance" is a Christian movie about two pastors- one from a big, rich, flashy church and the other from a small inner-city church. The movie made several good points, but I'll just mention one. The pastor from the inner-city church had a bad habit of swearing. His language wasn't "R-rated," but it still was not lovely, appropriate or God-honoring. I think there are a few reasons why this character had this flaw, but the reason that stuck out to me was the fact that he had been affected by his surroundings. He was pastor of a church right in the middle of everything that is ugly. The church ministered to drug-dealers and prostitutes and hearing gunshots in their neighborhood was an everyday occurrence. So this pastor was faced with the ugliness every day of his life and as a result the language of the people around him seeped in and he started talking like they did.
Each Christian has been called to serve wherever God has placed them and no matter where you live there is the danger of the ugliness of the world seeping into you and your family and changing you. If you live in an urban area perhaps the temptation will be to dress similarly to your neighbors since you feel weird in your "good Christian clothes." Or maybe the hopelessness of the people around you will affect you or even the violence you are faced with everyday. Maybe you'll be tempted to let down your guard and stop fighting quite so hard and maybe some of the ugliness will be let in.
My family has been called to serve God in middle class suburbia. Our neighborhood is relatively safe and I don't think I've ever heard a gunshot nor seen a drug deal take place. But this neighborhood is still full of an ugliness all its' own and a danger that can be hard to fight against. It's the danger of wealth and worldliness, of relying on my possessions for happiness and trying to impress the Joneses.
I don't know my neighbors. Sure, I could name most of them and if I ran into them on the street we'd say hi and chat about the weather a bit, but we all hide behind our masks. We drive our shiny cars into our spacious driveways and prune our hedges. We smile at each other and if we fight with our spouses we try to keep it quiet so no one else hears. And I find myself quite content with how things are because it's so easy and things feel right.
And yet, my neighborhood is just as dark and ugly as the place where the drug dealers live and gang members kill each other. Sin is just as present here as in the ghetto. And we need to be fighting it here or it will overtake us as well. Only it won't come out as swearing or violence, rather it will look like a well-kept lawn and a nice minivan. A smiling face as I take my kids to soccer practice, ballet, tuba lessons, swim meets, etc. My husband will go to work and I'll run the kids about and make sure our house stays clean. We'll pay the bills on time and even have some money left over for a nice vacation. I'll smile at my neighbors and they'll smile back and life will feel right.
Now, I'm not saying that all these things are wrong by themselves, but what is this average American lifestyle? Is it serving God and denying ourselves or is it just getting comfortable here in this world? Maybe that lifestyle makes sense if that's all you're hoping for, but I'm waiting for something better- heaven. And I want my neighbors to be there, too.
So should we give into the pretty-looking ugliness and live like everyone else around us? Or do we fight it and, by God's almighty grace bring some light and hope into this dark place?
Don't think that just because you live in a nice neighborhood with pretty houses you aren't called to be a missionary there or that it's not dangerous. The danger to become like the world is very present in nice neighborhoods- it's just harder to see. Which makes it harder to fight.
May God give us wisdom and courage to fight and serve where He has placed us.