Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jesus Coming to America

One of my favorite comedies of all time is Coming to America. If you haven't seen it, here's the basic plot. Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), of the ficticious African country of Zamunda, rebels againtst his parents arranging his marriage. He plots with his servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to go on a journey so that he can authentically find a wife who he loves. They look on a map and happen to stumble on a place in New York called Queens. Akeem says, "What better place to find a queen than in the city of Queens?" They come to New York City, and of course they want to blend in, so they try to look and act just like New Yorkers and not reveal their royalty. As you can see in the photo, they look just like the locals, don't they?

Something very similar happens with Christians.  In an attempt to relate to our neighbors, we often come across more as tourists than as locals. We have a hard time sharing the love of Jesus in an authentic and valuable way.  And after seeing that guy with the megaphone on the street corner or that over-the-top televangelist, many mindful Christians tend to shy away from sharing their faith for fear of being inauthentic. If that's what evangelism is all about, then I also would feel better keeping my mouth shut.  But we really are are supposed to be a blessing to the world around us. So what does it look like to share our faith?

In our church, one of our core values is to Be Incarnational. The incarnation of Jesus (God coming to live among us) gives us the best clue as to what "evangelism" should look like. And in Luke 4:14-21, Jesus lets the world know what his "Coming to America" was all about.

He officially innaugurates his ministry by quoting from the prophet Isaiah, saying...
   18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (bold added)
 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
That's Shalom talk.  Shalom is the Old Testament word for peace and it's the major thread that holds the story of the Bible together. It's Jesus' "MO". But it's much richer than a simple English translation of peace. Shalom is what Luke 4:18-19 is all about - restoration, wholeness, reconciliation, healing, justice, freedom, fulfillment, and a fresh start. It's the vision of hope for how God is going to make the world right.  So Jesus (aka Immanuel) shows us what it's like for God to be among us.

Now here is where the rubber hits the road. The church as the "body of Christ" displays what Christ is about to the world. The church shares the good news of Jesus by being Jesus, by rubbing off shalom on the world around them.  It's an integrated evangelism that is more about actions and posture, than it is about talking. It's about about letting people experience God by being with them, building relationships, and adding that shalom value to their lives.

I think that we'd be able to fit in with our neighbors really well if we practiced that a little.

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