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"I have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly"

John 10:10

Christian Lifestyle

"When I were a lad..", some time back admittedly, being a bit different was cool.  You could set yourself apart by dropping out of established things like Church.  It was supposed to show independence..  Today, if I wanted to show off, then I could stand out by joining the Church!  Perhaps some regressive part of me is still trying to be cool?

huge statue of Angel of the North with author looking tiny in a similar pose

And what about you, do you care to stand out?  Or do you want to fit in?  And as a Christian, do you have to conform, or can you be yourself?  What's an authentic Christian lifestyle like?  Boring or exciting?  Is there one way or many?  And is there room for someone like you?  Better still, will it make you stunningly attractive and rich?

Don't ask me, I'm neither of these and I'm not a perfect Christian either.  But I've found the Christian faith has enabled me to grow in ways I wouldn't otherwise have done.  Exciting at times, challenging and rewarding at others, throughout it's provided me with a steady sense of belonging.  I can encounter God whatever I'm doing, and join with His family of believers - just about anywhere I'm likely to travel, throughout the world.  I'm not 'happy clappy', yet nothing can take away the fulfilment that God brings, and contemplating life without Him seems empty in comparison.

"God has a special purpose for your life"

But don't set your expectations by me.  You're unique, and God has a special purpose for you and your life.  If that scares you, don't worry, God's big enough to let you shape how it works out, and to let you set the pace.

Your flexible Lord

Just to underline that: I've been privileged to meet with people exploring how God calls us (back) to the faith.  Getting a glimpse into how He makes a real difference in the challenges and struggles of individual lives, is a deep privilege.  I respect those people's privacy, so don't expect to read it here.  But I just want to say, they're all different.

Over the years, I've also been lucky to know a number of Christians from various denominations, both cradle Christians and those who've been 'born again' in faith.  All of this doesn't make me an expert, but it seems to me, the ways God reaches people are all individual (even if there are some common aspects).  All this has taught me to make room in my expectations: not only in how Christians should be, but also in what we individually expect from God.

"God's a skilled communicator"

Now I'm not suggesting that Jesus or His Church have different teachings that you can pick and mix: there is but one Jesus and one Truth.  But God's a skilled communicator, and He can talk to me differently than how He does to you.  It's not a problem to Him that one person encounters God for the first time in the mountains, another on her knees.  God is as flexible and tolerant in His conversation with us, as we are diverse ourselves.

Mutual respect

In return God looks for our reaction.  People will look at how you come across, but God is much more interested in what we express towards Him and our neighbours, than in our style.  After all, Jesus complained that of all the lepers he cured, only one came back to say thanks.  Jesus didn't complain about how that man expressed his heart-felt gratitude.

"Today, people are pressured to have the right image"

God doesn't care about your style in the way people do.  Today, popular fashion supports entire industries.  Young people are pressured to have the right image, phone, etc.  And even older people measure their 'status' by how fashionable their homes, cars, furniture, TVs, holidays and friends are.  There's pressure on just about everyone in this respect, albeit in varying degrees.

So what about you, do you want to enjoy some cool 'status'.  Most of us want to be accepted by our own crowd.  Being different only works if others in the group we respect, look up to us.  So ultimately, cool status is not about being set apart, but about being set a little ahead of others around us.

Now there are probably quite a few people who'd like to persuade you that Christianity is cool.  In truth it's not that simple.  If cool is about having the edge on everyone else, then Christianity is about putting other people above you instead.

Jesus did some pretty humble things.  But in doing that, He showed real leadership.  Oh and courage, and love and loyalty, and power too - by dying like a criminal on a cross.

If you think that's cool then fine, but on reflection I think you'll agree: that's a totally different kind of cool.  It's a totally different kind of power too.

Jesus not only knew what He stood for, but He lived it.  He lived out sacrificial love.  That's where the power was hidden.  And He did it in a way that can be shared out!

"Contrast Jesus to popular culture"

Contrast Jesus to the fashionable life-styles that popular culture presents, which are typically about having and taking, rarely about giving.  Fashions might represent some idea, but they aren't actually anything in themselves at all.

Jesus on the other hand isn't a philosophy, like some idea of goodness: to be harnessed to improve your image.  Or an experience, like loving feelings: to be wrapped up in a popular trend.  Certainly a Christian life can be a series of life-shaping encounters and experiences, as we co-operate with our loving God.  And all that can be wrapped up in a Christian lifestyle that enthuses people and communities.  But the goal of it all, is much more than just having a happier life, or defining a peaceful and co-operative culture..

..God doesn't represent goodness, He is goodness itself.  He is no less than the source and goal of goodness, love and yes, even of life itself.  God is the goal of our Christian lifestyle, which aims to unite us with the greatest and humblest power there is: God's essence is nothing less than life-giving love.  And it's that which He wants to share with you.

Disappointment

Many people these days, devote a fair effort to acquiring not only a comfortable lifestyle, but a fashionable one in particular.  They do so for a variety of reasons they'd be happy to state.  But then there are the unstated reasons touched on above, like wanting to gain acceptance, or even an edge over others.  Such 'advantages' based on what you acquire, soon pass by however: fashions change, possessions age and so do people.  One problem with all this, is that in a world with little or no consensus on objective truth, what can a fashion or lifestyle express, that others would respect for long?

Of course there are some universal human values: like love, truth and freedom.  But as we know, today truth has been largely relegated to choice.  Love is increasingly re-branded as personal satisfaction.  And freedom as spending money.  No surprise then that fashionable lifestyles increasingly focus on spending money, to acquire your chosen means of short-lived self-satisfaction.

This weakening of values matters, because if in competing to get ahead, you end up with nothing that lasts, then for all your effort, you won't really be ahead at all.

The high life!

A good life, a fulfilling life, is one in which you discover your true dignity and value.  One in which you experience the greatest gifts of loving and being loved.  In which you find true freedom.  Such a life is offered to you for free.  But that's not to say it's always easy.  Though the formula is simple enough.

"Jesus Christ: the man of love and genuine values, who lived what He taught"

The formula is Jesus Christ: the man of love and genuine values, who lived what He taught.  And who delivered what He preached.  When Jesus said 'I am the way', He meant I am prepared to set the example, and more..  Jesus stands ready to accompany us on every step of our life's journey.  And more.. Jesus has given himself so that we may share in His Divine life.  Now there's a life worth getting!

Jesus is the universal Christian brand.  Every Christian who tries to live out the life that God has in mind for him or her, is living the Christian lifestyle.  Everyone will do this in their own unique way, but in doing so there will be common aspects.  Those of learning from others, those of coming to know the word and work of God.  A life of encountering God through prayer and solidarity with others through action.  A life of acknowledged failings and fresh starts.  A life that knows true love and self-worth.  A life even - that can make sense of unavoidable suffering.  That's the real authentic Christian lifestyle.

"A Christian is not above others, but lives to give light for others to live by"

The signs that our faith leaves on us, are spiritual and often invisible.  But the changes faith makes in our lives, are real and lasting.  Others might not see those changes, but they'll feel them.  A Christian is not above others, but lives to give light for others to live by.  The light of love and life that comes from God.  Not God above, but God who is with us, day in, day out.

Smart

The Christian lifestyle is packed with value:

But it's more than just a lifestyle to try out, it's the lifestyle for living, not only today but for all time.  In fact it's more than a style of living, it's the purest way of experiencing life itself.  A life without end.  Go on, you know you want to live God's way!

 

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