Events of the week have me reflecting deeply on what Christians should be doing in the world – a few events in particular. The first event were many of the “anti-Trump protests” that occurred in the week just past. Now let’s be honest, are a “baby Trump balloon” or very large, very public cursing about the president really protests? Of course not, they have no policy aims or disagreements, they are simply ridicule or expressions of revulsion, but they most certainly do not rise to the level of “protest.” What struck me at first was that people, or a group of people, thought that their personal revulsion was so important that the whole world had to know of it in some spectacular fashion. At bottom these are acts of utter self-absorption. Turns out it is worse than I thought, they are advertising stunts. (Be sure and order your t-shirt today – not!) It’s not just self-absorption, it’s self-aggrandizement.
The other event is far more personal – a bad, no make that really bad, customer service call. This is hardly a unique experience, everybody has these stories. And as tempting as it is to tell you all the glorious details I think that would make me guilty of the self-absorption I just spoke about. Let me describe it generally – a company, more interested in lowering costs than caring for the customer, has designed a customer service system purposefully to drive people away from calling. Then they have hired people that care not a whit about the customer’s issues, only about ticking the boxes on their “call completion checklist.” When asked about something not directly in the knowledge of the person taking the call an appropriate “I don’t know,” was the answer. “Well who does and how do I reach them?” “I don’t know.” End of conversation. Here we have two levels of self-absorption – on the part of the company and on the part of the customer service representative.
Then I thought about some of the really ugly church fights I have been involved in, and how at the bottom of almost all of them was self-absorption of some sort. They were almost never about what is best for advancing Christianity, they were about what somebody, or sombodies, wanted from church. If the church is so self-absorbed, how can we honestly expect the world at large to be any better?
Into these morbid thoughts came my Saturday devotional, looking at Genesis 1:
Which is why I sometimes scratch my head at the way that I learned to describe the good news of God’s good story. I was a sinner, yet Christ gave himself in love and grace, so that I could be forgiven, saved, and given access to heaven. For a long while, that was how I knew to tell the story of Bible, but curiously enough, the very good creation of Genesis hardly had a place in it. Or if it did, it was usually that all of it had gone sour in Genesis 3.
But with creation absent from the story, we don’t find much room for the ordinary and everyday things of life. We might wonder—like I often did—what everyday life on earth mattered to God, if someday we’d be whisked off to heaven to leave it all behind. But what if the Gospel really does involve all the ordinary stuff? Every bit of the “very good” creation that God smiled down upon. We’ll delve into these questions more in the devotions that follow.
Meditating on today’s passage however, I have a simple, yet overwhelming, thought: God cares deeply about ordinary things. If the world, and everything in it, has an important place at the beginning of the very important Christian story, then they must matter. If everything God made then was “very good,” then surely, even sin-tainted, a spark of goodness and the potential for redemption remains—just like it does for us.
The dirt we walk on, the sky above us, the chirping birds, and the crawling worms are part of God’s good story. They had a place from the start and will have a place through the end. Even the human-made materials around us cannot escape this fact, because all things—from iPhone to airplane—find their roots in the materials God crafted in the beginning.
And thus I propose a new project for Christians and for the church generally. We need to care less about the big stuff and concentrate on finding God in the little stuff. In many cases evangelism will mean not preaching or putting on events or organizing something, it will mean putting God into the little stuff. Building a civil society is the work of centuries, and was undertaken very purposefully by the church. When I see all the self-absorption that runs through our society, I see that work of centuries leaving us – and taking only a few generations to do so. The church fights, the bad customer service, the demonstrations are all signs of that departure.
The work of centuries is not about a big event or a dramatic hullabaloo – it’s about thousands upon thousands of little things. Let’s be about the little things.