When Jesus entered Jerusalem for his final week he had a manifesto for God’s people. He was pursuing a kingdom agenda which could revolutionize Israel, one he was ready to give his life to bring about.
What kind of manifesto could we have to speak life and hope in a consumer culture? It’s a huge question, but having pondered it for seven years or so, I think we should consider things on three levels. Today: the personal.
We rewire consumerism at the personal level when we:
Know our identity in Christ. Just to know and live the scriptures, and what they say about God’s redeemed people, is to buck the trend. To live as created, redeemed, forgiven and daily commissioned followers of Christ is to resist the mis-shaping effects of consumerism in a thousand subtle ways.
Exhibit radical thankfulness. It flows from the first point, and from moment-by-moment consciousness that we live by grace alone as creatures in a created world.
Connect to a kingdom cause. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, all five of the talks I’ve given through Lent are about living for God’s kingdom. Only being grasped by a cause can shake us out of consumer lethargy. It could be any cause across a wide spectrum (evangelistic, environmental, justice, community, project-based, local, global, etc), but it should be something. Of course, we need to watch that we don’t ‘consume’ the cause as a badge of identity, belonging, coolness or acheivement. Equally, we need to watch that the cause doesn’t consume our faith, which needs to remain simple and Christ-focussed. Still, a cause is vital (I write this as someone who in some ways is still searching for mine).
Pursue simplicity, humility and prayer. ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength’ (Is 30:15).
Cultivate ambitious personal generosity. If we do this, it will make us vulnerable. When we’rre vulnerable, we’ll need to learn to receive from others, too.
Creatively experiment with the house-mortgage-job-insurance matrix. It’s almost ubiquitous; we can’t always escape it; but we can try to seize ways of thinking and living differently. We need more examples of how to do this, and for that we need folks who are willing to take a risk…
Mess with the consumer dream: career paths, ‘must haves’, family expectations, ‘what we should want for our kids’, ‘this is the life’. What would it look like to both affirm what is good in the patterns of life around us, but also, with a playfulness that comes from knowing who really holds the power in the universe, to tease out the ways God says ‘no’ or ‘it doesn’t have to be like this’. There’s no one blueprint for this. Each of us can be a divinely-handcrafted, uniquely placed SIGN of a different way of doing things. As someone once said, a sign doesn’t have to be perfect; all it has to do is point.
Exercise grace at all times! With ourselves as well as others.
Tomorrow, what could we do in our churches?