"So I tell you this, and insist upon it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
"That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
"Should I be a Starbucks customer?" The question suddenly dawned on me as I looked down at my tall soy chai in Starbucks. It was Sunday morning, and the young adults had congregated at the local chain store down the street from church. This was our newly-established ritual, greatly embraced by all. A few months ago, we unanimously decided that coffee was good for our brains and the fellowship was cozier and more conducive to our discussions.
But as I sat there on this particular Sunday, I heard our conversation about true worship and living differently in all areas of life, and I stared down at my paper cup -- and the several paper cups at the table -- and I thought about throwing them away and creating more garbage, and the luxury to buy a $3+ drink at all, and how mindlessly I do it every week -- and the question came again. "Should I consume at Starbucks at all?"
How ought I to live?
I suppose this question didn't come completely out of the blue. You see, I've been feeling that God really wants to make me new -- that He wants to make radical changes in my life. And, to be honest, I have already seen Him make some radical changes.
For one instance (and there are so many), God has called my husband and I into communal living. This was never my first choice, and there were moments I resisted Him kicking and screaming, and daily I find myself fighting various (usually negative) opinions on the matter set forth by people who don't understand how/why we live this way and could subject our (almost?) baby to such a life.
My answer? It's totally God. It's a God-thing, and I don't know how else to explain how He absolutely changed my heart to longing for community. And it's totally a God-thing that there's this little person growing inside of me and that He has blessed us with this miracle. And when we originally found out we were pregnant, we were almost at full support and ready to make plans to live on our own, and then things changed. Our support dropped and we did not end up moving to a cheaper area. God changed our plans, and so now our life looks different. But even though our life may look different, it doesn't make it any less valuable to the Kingdom.
Today I was re-reading a section in Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers by Shaine Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove:
"There's a beautiful place in the Gospels where Jesus lets the disciples in on a family secret:
'Truly I tell you,' Jesus replied, 'No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father of children or field for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred time as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and field--along with persecution.' (Mark 10:29-31)
Jesus assures us that as we leave our possessions and family in allegiance to God's kingdom, we will enter a new household of abundance... Persecutions will come to us when we choose an economic order different from the pattern of the world." (pp. 20-21)
There are two things that strike me about this passage and excerpt. The first is that when we follow Christ, again and again, He promises us persecution (not just in this passage, but many others). I always used to envision persecution as bodily harm or some sort of physical exile, but now I see it as more. I truly now feel as though I have been experiencing forms of subtle persecution for us merely following the Lord's specific leading in our lives.
The other thing that strikes me is how Jesus promises us abundance of homes and families in this life. Our pastor read this verse a few months ago, and I initially was confused by it. I thought that Jesus somehow meant we would have money and comfort and our own home, but I knew in my gut that that interpretation didn't make sense. I now see that once we "leave" our biological families, we inherit the entire family of God. "We have sisters and brothers and mothers all over the world," the authors point out. "Jesus had homes everywhere he went... the disciples were not sent out in the simple poverty of an ascetic life but with a new vision of interdependence, trusting that God would provide for them... The church was not only to practice hospitality, but to be dependent on hospitality also. The line between 'us' and 'them' was dissolved" (21-22).
Isn't that beautiful? The thing is, there is enough wealth among our Christian family -- wealth of money, of space and homes, and family -- so that no one will go hungry, no one will go homeless, and no one will be orphaned. And yet we have not broken free from the bondage of the world -- the bondage of our own greed. We have conformed to the pattern of the world and have not allowed ourselves to be made new.
I wonder if it has to do with the little things. The daily time in prayer. The daily time with God. Obedience in the small things. Are we just waiting around until God asks us to do that one, big thing that will change the pattern of our lives? Are we just idling away until we feel inspiration to change? Are we holding our breath until God calls us to leave our families for the mission field?
Here's the reality: we won't make the big changes in our lives until we start responding in daily, mundane obedience. It starts small. Going to church every Sunday and becoming anchored in a Christian community completely changed my life, and I only started going back to church because they hired my fiance. But through that one simple act of obedience and one step of forming a new habit, God transformed me. There were other steps along the way, but the first step was simply showing up for church every Sunday.
Now there are different calls to obedience in my life. I could easily choose to ignore them or wait until I'm really fired up to change, but if I just obeyed, maybe the church would be one step closer to being made new. Maybe I would be one step closer to being made new.
And so my original question lingers in my brain, and I wonder about my Starbucks-habit and how God wants to use my obedience for the Kingdom. Quite honestly, as a former employee, I love Starbucks and have found no major ethical reasons to boycott them in my life. And maybe the question was my own thought and not from God at all, but what if it was God? What would happen if I stopped consuming Starbucks? Could we perhaps save more money for our daughter, or have some extra cash to take a student out to lunch, or give more money to a child in poverty (or even the homeless along the streets of Philadelphia)? I'm going to continue to pray about these questions and ask the Lord to continually renew me and my lifestyle.
What about you? How is God asking you to put on the new self?