Last month I had a very enjoyable and enlightening conversation with an old acquaintance (well at least one of us fits that description). It had been at least 15 years since I last interacted with Mark, when we worked together at an innovative and exciting internet-related organization. He was a bright, articulate, humanistic, anti-religion type of guy, in his mid-20’s. I was approximately 15 years older (no more clues) and at the time was in yet another phase of unsuccessfully trying to find my place in charismatic Christianity during what many would call a “revival” phase of the mid-1990’s. I quite enjoyed my many conversations with Mark in those days, although looking back my spiritual orientation was certainly more flavoured with institution than it is today. We rarely agreed on anything but always enjoyed diving into many and varied topics (spiritual and otherwise).
Fast-forward to 15+ years later and both of us were in a very different place. Mark, now in his early 40’s is married and the father of two children about to enter their teen years. He and his wife had pursued hard after “success”, moving to Southern California and founding several small start-ups during the dot com phenomenon fueled by the rapid expansion of the internet in the late 1990’s. He had made and lost several large piles of money but netted out having done very well. He and his family had returned to Canada about six years ago and he was pursuing another software venture while she had re-entered the software industry workforce after having been a full time mother for some time.
As for me, my children are now adults in their late twenties. I’m somewhat “retired” from the grind of corporate life but still active as a business consultant and enjoying messing up other people’s thinking through Back to Eden Group. Perhaps most importantly, Katherine and I are finally done trying to find our place in Christendom and are comfortable and excited with being explorers, seeking the riskier edges of the reformation of the ekklesia and the kingdom of God on earth. As is hopefully evident in our writings elsewhere on this site (check out our Blog Archive if you’d like to taste our flavor), we are firmly committed to expressing and living out the new and have no desire to prop up the old (let those who have ears to hear, understand). In fact we now know we were born for revolution and marvel at the privilege to live in such a time in history working with heaven to release the true ekklesia from the confines of religious structures and hierarchies that hold His people in bondage. While we honour those who ran their race before us, contributing through sacrifice and laying down some foundations for us, we see a new era emerging. We press on leaving the elementary things behind and forsake all that resembles Egypt as we look to the foundations whose builder and maker is God himself.
Back to Mark. After catching up with him, we very quickly engaged in deeper, more reflective conversations that were very similar to those from 15 years ago. Politics, economic models, capitalism, socialism, leadership trends, spiritual trends, etc. You name it, we covered it. It was clear that he had made no spiritual commitments in his life but evidently had learned much (as of course I have as well). As we concluded, his final statements took my breath away and left me exhilarated about the times we live in and God’s handle on the big picture.
The first was “All of our friends are in their early forties and we all have realized that we have spent the last decade or so working our *&#$’s off for what? We have had kids and done the family thing but are bored stiff. There must be something more.” This statement only whet my appetite for what came next,
“I realize now that after sacrificing so much (effort, sleep, fun, money, etc.) that the reward is not in the result but in the sacrifice itself. In fact, it is living a life of sacrifice that one is fulfilled, not in living a live of consumption.” And the kicker “I think I finally get Jesus. It is his sacrifice that matters. That’s what speaks to me now. The religion built around him makes me sick but he is so compelling.”
At this point, I wanted to burst out with a “Today, salvation has come to this house” statement. I was literally exploding inside with excitement. Not the religion inspired excitement that says that he is ready and that it was time to “lead him to Christ and say the sinner’s prayer” but the realization that he was in the process of finding the real Christ himself and more importantly that God had not forgotten his generation after all. The irresistible sacrifice represented by Jesus of Nazareth is fresh and new to yet another generation. Post modernism will also fall to the wisdom of the ages.
After Mark’s final comments, we talked about the core of who Jesus is and I reflected on Jesus’ statements to Pilate (paraphrased) such as “you wouldn’t have the power to kill or release me unless it was given to you by heaven” and that “don’t you think if I asked that my Father would send legions of angels to rescue me?” I encouraged him that he had discovered the key that Jesus had all authority and had willingly emptied himself of it in “sacrifice” and that living for others was the ultimate expression of authority and “success”.
Truly this meekness is what Jesus beckons us to resemble in the beatitudes. It is the meek that shall inherit the earth. It is not a sacrifice that costs one nothing. Heaven has revealed its blueprint for king-ship; living in such a way as to serve others and ultimately, like Jesus, die for them.
Have we died? Died to our dreams so our children or others may find theirs? My humanistic, anti-religion, work mate got it. He understood why Jesus was such a great example. But so few really “see” the mystery in embracing death. Even a seed must give up its life to bring forth the next generation. Irresistible sacrifice.
Thanks Mark. Truly salvation has come to your house.
John and Katherine Matthews