I grew up going to Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, but as a teen, I felt the weight of the world. My parents weren’t happily married, my mother had emotional illnesses. It was the Cold War, and Russia was going to blow us out of existence. I had an overwhelming sense that the world was a mess.
So in 1970 between my junior and senior year of high school, I became a Christian. It happened when I was at Bible camp, but I didn’t do the altar call. I’d seen the same classmates do that year after year, and I wanted something more serious than that—I didn’t want to participate in something that didn’t “stick.” I was looking for deep meaning, but it wasn’t just for me—it was because I felt the world needed some hope. I found that hope in Jesus, so I prayed with a trusted friend and asked Him to be my Lord.
When I was at Bethel College, I became aware of the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd, in the tradition of Abraham Kuyper. I felt Christianity needed to say something to the problems of the world, that it not just be an escape, a pass to heaven. Kuyper and Dooyeweerd taught that God is sovereign to all creation, that everything belongs to Jesus as Lord. So whether in business or society, in church or family, in our language and thought—everything we do in life and all of our culture is impacted by our faith. “Life is religion” is a slogan from this tradition, and it resonated with me. I saw its parallel with the Apostle Paul, who said that we are to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Your whole life is a sacrifice.
I’ve always been “bookish”—I love to study; I have piles of books in my “to read” list and lots of books that I’ve loaned to others. But I also know that I need something to keep me in Scripture and reading the Bible. I love to read science fiction and railroad history and then make model trains! I’m not very good at daily devotionals, but my class at CPC keeps me in God’s Word.
What I’ve learned is that when we read Scripture, we see the entirety of God’s story: creation, fall, and redemption. We see how the Old Testament points to Jesus and how Jesus continually points back to the Old Testament. We witness God’s covenant with Abraham to be a blessing to the earth, to be a solution to this mess. Do you want to know what breaks God’s heart? Read the prophets, and see how God’s people turn to idols because they don’t trust in Him. We are called to read Scripture because it not only tells God’s story; as Christians, it is our story.
I want to be part of something that offers hope to this world now. I believe as Christians, we need to be active participants in caring for the world, fixing problems, and facing injustice. I want my life, as a follower of Jesus, to transform culture. Our actions can feel small or fruitless when we face the big needs in the world. What fills our days—meetings, work, volunteering, recreation—is not meant to be something we do in addition or in spite of our relationship with Jesus. Instead, these things are meant to be an expression of my relationship with Jesus. When I do this, I am living out His call to be salt and light. And there is great hope in that.
Recommendations from Doug’s Library
AUTHORS: Jim Skillen • Robert Farrar Capon • N. T. Wright • Brian Walsh • James K. A. Smith
MAGAZINE: Comment from Cardus cardus.ca/comment
MUSICIAN: Bruce Cockburn