The gospel of the middle class is truly my life as a North American Christian. My life is hectic with a busy schedule, most often focused on the goal of “me.” The subconscious whisper in my mind is: This is my money, my time, my talents and my resources to be used for achieving my comfort, my satisfaction, my goals and ultimately my end.
Practically speaking, here’s how the gospel of middle class reveals itself in my life: Drive-through runs for a quick-fix for my hunger. Short, choppy prayers when I’m feeling needy. The Easter Sunday dress I thought I needed. Coffee from Starbucks any time I have the urge. Redecorating my room because it needs a face-lift. Weekly excursions to Target just to see what’s on sale … I wonder how God looks upon me as I’m all caught up in a whirlwind of price tags, tangled up in the sales rack looking for satisfaction. All the while children in Africa are dying of starvation due to a lack of resources. Am I over exaggerating? The middle-class gospel is endless emailing, text messaging friends and instant communication with those around me on my “constant presence,” affectionately known as my cell phone. I seem to fit Christ in the Pocket-PC of my existence. A 20-minute appointment once a day is good enough for God, right? OK, an hour is good, too. When can I schedule Him though? Does He really want to meet with me today? I’m sort of busy.
Guilty. I am embarrassed of committing myself to this middle-class gospel. I am guilty of excusing my self-indulgence under the guise of Christianity, masking lies with truth to justify my end. In the book, Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller speaks of confronting his belief in self-reliance, “The greatest lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me.”
Now, to clear things up, I’m not trying to knock the social status the Lord has given North American Christians. In fact, I believe He gives us position, resources and talents to utilize for His glory, ultimately His end. However, I believe that we, as human beings, have an uncanny way of worshipping comfort versus worshipping Christ. But Christ means danger: it means denying oneself, it means living in the Sprit and not indulging in the flesh. The gospel of the middle class is not really something I have too long held onto. Perhaps growing up in a Christian environment and in a middle-class society for 20-some years, I’ve become a captive to this hollow gospel, a gospel of self-contentment.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to discern truth in the midst of Christian culture where a life of faith seems to be more about a set of behavioral standards to follow versus the story of man’s heart yielding to God’s redemptive love. In Dangerous Wonder, the late Mike Yaconelli cuts to the heart of the gospel. The author states, “If Christianity is about being nice, I’m not interested … I’m ready for a Christianity that ‘ruins’ my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable.” The Gospel is never a snug, cozy or comfortable message; these adjectives are best used to describe my couch or my bed. These certainly should not be used to portray my faith.
Risky. The Gospel is risky business. Recently, the man of my dreams proposed to me. Since I’ve been single all my life, I was telling my coworkers how it seems easier to make a life commitment to God than to a future mate because God is invisible and safer. Steven, my fiery redheaded and witty coworker, suggested he would be more afraid of a life commitment to God than to a future mate because God is a dangerous God. I pondered that thought for a while and realized I had inadvertently molded my Jesus to be a harmless God as opposed to His dangerous reality. Subconsciously, I suppose I was trying to protect my comfort level by having this incomplete, miniaturized view of the true reality of the omniscient, omnipotent God.
Captive. Paul warns the church of Colosse with a poignant message relevant to Christ-followers living in the present culture: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:8-10).
If we truly knew the fullness of the Deity whom we have been given through faith, there would be no such thing as a middle-class gospel. Submitting to this lie is an easier path because giving our lives over to the middle-class gospel allows us to remain comfortable. When we truly allow Jesus to grab hold of our Pocket-PC lives, then our fragmented, busy existences will look dangerously, yet beautifully different and will be ruined for the ordinary.[Michelle Parenteau is a proud University of Texas at Austin graduate, a freelance graphic designer, and a managing web editor of a website for teen girls. She loves working with high school students at Irving Bible Church.]