Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

To Start Thinking Like Christians, We Need To Stop Thinking Like Americans

 

This past week has been a difficult week to be a Christian with access to the internet.

Between the bombings in Europe and the Middle East and the ongoing refugee crisis, I have found myself painfully reminded that we live in a world that seems to have a never-ending string of sadness and brokenness. What is also true, is that we live in a world where God has chosen and designated a special group of people to get out there and be the solution to all of this brokenness– but that group of people (and I’m talking about us here) seem to terribly miss that mark so often.

In a world where people say, “Yikes folks, we have a ton of refugees; they need a safe place to stay and will need to be taken care of” the Church of Jesus Christ should be standing up and shouting, “Hey– that’s actually our job. Send them to us and we’ll take care of it.”

While there are some saying that, the Church certainly isn’t unified. For every voice that says, “We’ve got it covered” there seems to be another that responds with, “But wait, we have homeless vets– we have to take care of our own first!” and, “This would be stupid, we shouldn’t let killers into our homes!”

Honestly, in the span of a week I’ve heard it all. Calls to build the Trump Wall like it were the Great Wall of China, comparing refugees to child molesters, and a near constant wave of dehumanization of the world’s needy. All this, in order to make it more palatable to just let someone else do what the Church was put on earth to do– or to just let them die, which is a more likely scenario for many. Honestly, as I’ve looked at the words American Christians have said about refugees this past week, I felt like I imagine Jesus must have felt when he wept over Jerusalem, knowing that Israel had for the final time, rejected God.

Our problem folks, is that we’re so busy thinking like Americans that we forget to think like Christians.

You see, Jesus said that his Kingdom was “not of this world.” Jesus came to establish a culture that was unlike anything a nation state could ever provide– a Kingdom with a certain set of values so unique, they’d never be found anywhere else. As people of the Kingdom, we are called to pledge our allegiance to the Kingdom, and to live by the Kingdom principles Jesus established. That’s the foundation of being a Christian– entering Christ’s Kingdom, and expanding it to the corners of the earth.

But as long as we think like Americans, we’ll never think like Christians– because we’re talking about two entities that are in opposition to one another. You can think like one, or you can think like the other, but you can’t think like both at the same time.

“You cannot serve two masters” Jesus warned.

As Americans we’re concerned about the future of our country, we worry about our borders being violated, we’re concerned about how big of a portion of our money we get to keep for ourselves, and a host of other issues that are pertinent to life in America. However, as Christians, we are concerned about the Kingdom of God– one that is different than America, and one that has a different culture than America.

When we think like an American, we are concerned primarily with “me” and “us” but those concerns are antithetical to Kingdom concerns. Jesus warned that a condition of becoming one of his disciples– a condition of becoming a Christian– was that we stop being primarily concerned with ourselves, that we reject the ideology of keeping more for ourselves, reject self-preservation, and become people who think and live differently.

The Kingdom of God is not concerned with building walls, but tearing them down.

The Kingdom of God is not concerned with having more, but giving more.

The Kingdom of God says, “Refugees? That’s why we exist– we’d love to help.”

But, in order to think like a Christian, in order to begin thinking like a Kingdom-person, we have to stop thinking like Americans– because those two entities have an entirely different set of concerns and goals.

As Christians we are immigrants and exiles living in a foreign country and hold our citizenship elsewhere. During our stay we will be tempted to adopt the identity of our host nation and will be tempted to follow the gods of this land– the gods of “me” and “ours.” In this regard I find words of Joshua quite fitting as he addressed an Israel that was divided between serving God, or the gods of their culture. In the speech, Joshua reminded them of the choice between serving God, and serving the gods of the land they found themselves in. He said, “If serving the Lord is undesirable to you, then go ahead and choose who you want to serve– whether it’s your ancestors or their gods.”

“But for me and my family?” Joshua said, “We will serve the Lord.”

Joshua knew what we forget– you can serve the gods of the land you live in, or you can serve the Living God, but you can’t serve both. You’ll have to pick one.

I pray today we’ll think about that. You can serve the gods of America, or you can serve Jesus, but you can’t serve both. You can be loyal to the Kingdom, or loyal to America, but you can’t be equally loyal to both.

You can think like an American, or you can think like a Christian.

I pray we’ll start thinking like Christians– because the world is waiting on us.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

Join the resistance: Subscribe for posts and updates from BLC!

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  • Yes, we who call ourselves Xtians are also Americans, and there is a mix of the two. It’s not a one or the other thing. However, there is some truth to the idea that you give priority to one or the other. That’s the point that we need to keep in sight. Yes, we’re Xtians, but the borders… Yes, I follow Jesus, but our national security….
    We tend to prioritize one or the other.
    Perhaps at least we can strive to be aware of this tug-of-war between priorities? Instead of saying our borders have to be secure at all costs, maybe we can say that we vlaue security, but we also know that we have a duty as people on whom so very much luxury has been lavished without our meriting it at all, to be mindful of our dity to provide generously for the destitute, the widows and orphans and the homeless.

    On a less serious note: It is not “different than”; it is “different from.”

  • “You see, Jesus said that his Kingdom was “not of this world.” Jesus came to establish a culture that was unlike anything a nation state could ever provide– a Kingdom with a certain set of values so unique, they’d never be found anywhere else. As people of the Kingdom, we are called to pledge our allegiance to the Kingdom, and to live by the Kingdom principles Jesus established. That’s the foundation of being a Christian– entering Christ’s Kingdom, and expanding it to the corners of the earth.”

    Priceless!

  • I think its time for Christians to evaluate the “success” of the social experiment started 1700 years ago with Emperor Constantine: the merger of church and state to affect the Kingdom of God. Has Christendom been successful in furthering the “Kingdom of God” in the world, or has it hindered it? Why has Christendom died in most of Europe and will it die here in America? Should it? If it has been largely a failure, I believe it has, is it madness to continue to try and bring about the Kingdom of God by collusion of church and state?
    Christians lost their “objectiveness,” their ability to live counter to the self-serving interests of the state when they took the carrot Constantine dangled in front of them. Christian leaders still are taking the bait politicians dangle before them, then urge their followers to do the same. The greatest danger to living an effective Christ-filled life is adhering to tribalism and nationalism, the belief that God favors America over other nations, that America is the new Israel, in a covenental relationship with God.

  • Lovely words, words that don’t mean a thing. The fallacy of your argument is comparing two things that aren’t related nor a requirement for being the other. Being an American is not dependent on being a Christian nor is the reverse. Being an American is wholly and totally separate from being a Christian. There are plenty of Christians who believe the same way you describe Americans believing and as well as the reverse.

    People calling themselves Christians are some of the most loving people I’ve met, those calling themselves the same are also some of the most bigoted, hate filled too. Being a Christian doesn’t mean a thing because there is no one standard, and please don’t tell me all about the Bible. Christianity is a cafeteria religion where you can believe as you wish and can pull a sentence out of the Bible to justify it. We have some many different gospels it’s not even funny. The corporatization of the faith is diminishing the impact while creating a brand that drives many from the message. The church has become one of the largest money making tax dodges. The last election only proves how far the faith has gone to pervert itself and divide. The faith has become a marketing gimmick to fatten the wallets and promote the powerful over the least.

    Frankly, it’s time to clear the temple and overturn the tables.

    • Wookie, I think you’ve misunderstood Ben’s argument. In fact, as Shirley posted, you’ve basically restated it. Christianity gets into trouble when it begins to identiy itself with the state, or the interests of the state, conflating the two. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Religious Right has done, making conservative republicanism equal to following Jesus. In fact, the two could not be further apart. The obsession with “my rights,” majority rule taking precedence over the rights of minorities and the myth of a “Christian America” are simply not compatible with authentic Christianity.

  • You have no idea of the relief and joy I feel when I encounter like spirits and minds. I’ve struggled in my understandin of what it means to be a Christian based off of some of the examples I’ve seen. Something deep down inside of me was telling me that what I was witnessing wasn’t right even if/when people try to use scripture to back it up.

    I thought about going to seminary school just so that I can learn a new perspective other than what’s been pushed by the church.

    I never felt comfortable forcing my beliefs on others. Nor do I feel comfortable discriminating, alienating, comdemning, judging and turning my back on those in need. And I especially can’t do this in the name of Jesus. So much has brought me to this place of questioning. To the point where I on many occasions almost walked away from my Christian label. Thank God for people like you. Because of people like you, I’m learning to be okay with not being okay with the norm.

    I’m learning to stand in my own truth even if it means that I’m often left standing alone.

    Thank you.

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