Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Petri dish of the Kingdom

In high school chemistry I remember being fascinated by Petri dishes and agar plates. Something about that little dish, with all its potential for breeding crazy-wonderful or crazy-terrible little bugs and bits and pieces caught my attention.
This week we return to our (unfortunately) fast fly-through of Andrew Cameron’s book, Joined-up Life. Last year we looked at how this book frees us from a dry, distant or over-secular view of ethics. Rather ethical living is what oozes out of the gospel. Christian ethicists are not pseudo-scientists in some dusty lab of ‘moral-living’. They are us, everyday as we make choices about whether, what and why.
And as Christians we have a beautifully rich freedom in making ethical decisions. We don’t have to be tied down by conforming to what other’s expect. There is a bigger picture than just consequences and laws when we choose what to do. Rather, the Scriptures give us a rich range of wisdom for making good decisions in God’s world. We have God’s own character. We have God’s created order. We have God’s good fatherly advice (his commands). And we have the future hope to which God is taking our world. All these help us work out how to live life best with what we’ve got.
Zooming in on today’s focus – ‘Life in Churches’ (chapter 34) – I love how Cameron describes the church:
Each church is an extraordinary project of Jesus-shaped community, a network of relationships in which to learn endurance in difficulty while sill pursuing peace and love. In other words, [churches] become an alternative school of moral formation, where people are apprenticed to different settled habits and patterns of action and feeling, as expressed through various speech acts, money acts and other acts.
Cameron is up-front that many churches are not like this. But nevertheless, some are like this or could be like this.
I take it then, that our church family is a Petri dish. It is the relational space – whether during the Sunday gathering or during the week – where we are to grow into crazy-wonderful specimens of Christ-like men, women and children. People who love others at their own cost. Who are quick to accept the blame. Slow to anger, swift to serve. Culturing a new culture in our midst.
These new relationships and friendships are the place to relearn our old habits of being dominating, defensive or distant. To mutate from self-centred materialists back into our true image as God-honouring, other-loving, Christ-images. And with the work of God’s spirit even old dogs can learn new tricks.
So here’s to our churches being crazy, contagious, bursting-at-the-Petri-seams examples of the new culture of the new Kingdom. 

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