I turned 26 in March, which has got me doing some thinking (I know, what's new?). In the past 10 years, everything in my life has changed. I guess most people should expect things to change over a decade. But in my last decade, there is almost nothing that has stayed the same.
10 years ago, in March of 2000:
-I was a junior in high school (reunion is coming up)
-I was single (I started dating Holly in December 2000)
-Tiger Woods was my idol (with a squeaky clean image)
-9/11 hadn't changed the world yet
It was a different world. We weren't afraid of terrorism. Golf was my life. I wondered if I'd ever find a girl who would date me.
Today, I can honestly say, I only agree with a handful of the things I believed when I was 16. My beliefs about everything have changed because of my encounter with Jesus Christ. In fact, if I were to have a debate with my 16 year old self, I think I would disagree on almost everything except my belief in Jesus Christ.
10 years ago:
-I was basically a dualist (everything was black and white)
-I believed heaven was where my disembodied soul would go
-I thought my money had little to do with my discipleship
-I was a Christian American caught up in nationalism
-I was a Church of Christ apologist
-I was a fundamentalist
-I was a homophobe
-I was solely concerned with my individual salvation
-I see many more shades of grey on many topics
-I believe God will restore all of creation and put the world to rights
-I struggle with how to best utilize the blessings God has given me
-I am a Christian who happens to live in America
-I am a committed to the Jesus story more than institutional religion
-I read Scripture as a story to live into
-I leave judgment to God and fulfill my role as a lover of people
-I am committed to the message of the kingdom of God and social justice
The list could go on, but that's enough to show the changes within me. I'm proud that I've come to a more holistic view of the Jesus story. I'm so glad I've found the message of the kingdom of God. Most of all, I'm glad I've found the story of Jesus compelling enough to give my life to.
But I've been thinking, the thoughts in my head have changed over the past 10 years, but how much has my behavior changed. The goal of the Jesus story is not just a perfected intellectual understanding of the Christian faith. We're called to live into this story in radical ways that change our actions and behavior. God wants to use the church, as his tool to put the world to rights. He's asked us to join him in his kingdom project.
So, I hope my thinking continues to grow and shift over the next decade of my life, but even more I hope my behavior catches up to my thinking about the kingdom. Because I know a lot more Bible than I do.
For the next decade, I'm committed to the message of Micah 6:8: "He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
I don't want to be a Christian who knows what to do, but fails to do it. The wise man in the Sermon on the Mount is the man who hears Jesus' words and puts them into practice, not the man who memorized and understood the Sermon on the Mount better than anyone else. The man who knows the Sermon on the Mount backwards and forwards, but does none of it, is actually the foolish man.
When I look back at my 36th birthday, I hope I can say that justice, mercy, and walking humbly with God are ways I have grown.
I hope my life is a pursuit of justice for the poor and oppressed in significant ways. I hope my children will look at my life and know that I care deeply about social justice (regardless of what Glenn Beck might say about me). I hope this quest changes my standard of living and improves the standard for others. I want to break down systems of injustice in this world.
And I hope my kids will see mercy in my life. After all, if I've received mercy after mercy from my God, how can I be a harsh man with the people around me?
And I hope my kids see my humble relationship with God. I cannot lead them well if I'm not following God well.
So, here's to the next 10 years. May I continue to grow in knowledge, but may I most of all grow in my pursuit of justice, mercy, and relationship with my God.