being odd

I am a bit odd.
I know it.

I don't complain about Auckland traffic
(because compared with much of the world, it is pretty good).

I'd welcome a day when an old song is prized above a new song, particularly on Sundays
(because the lyrics so often voice a well-worn trail deep into the human heart).

I don't moan about NZ weather
(because so many people would love to have our rainfall and mild climate).

I'd welcome a day when alcohol is viewed in the same way as smoking
(because, in the face of the impact of its abuse, someone has to start saying, 'enough').

I don't worry about being in fashion
(because it costs too much money).

I'd welcome a day when patriotism is scrubbed clean from the planet
(because it causes so much damage to the mission of God in the world).

I don't linger in, or even visit, shopping malls
(because it just feeds my greed and discontent).

I'd welcome a day when Christians break free from their addiction to caffeine
(because the added revenue for mission would be enormous!).

I don't swear, choosing not to litter my speech with f-bombs and s-grenades
(because trashy talk is childish and lacks imagination).

I'd welcome a day when reality TV ceased to fascinate so much
(because it encapsulates the triviality that can keep people shallow).

WOW - reading all that and I see that I am even odder than I thought. And to think I could keep going still further?!

And yes, I know.
When all is said and done, most of these oddities are unimportant and irrelevant - well, almost...

Because I find that being willing to embrace a little oddity helps orient me to living life against-the-flow. A bit of contrariness is useful. It strengthens my resolve to be different. It provides me with practice on feeling myself to be alien. It helps me grow accustomed to the face of being a bit strange.

And that is important.

One of the great mistakes in mission today is to speak of it being about incarnation - and that's it. It is not enough to be incarnate. It is not enough to mix in and fit in and feel you are relevant to the world. It is not enough to multiply community-bridging ministries. The vocation of the people of God has always included a variation on the theme of being 'a light to the nations' (Old Testament), or 'the light of the world' (New Testament). Surely part of the consequence of these phrases is that the nations and the world are dark places - and that the people of God must fashion a life that is as different from the world as the light is from the dark. And so, yes, being 'strangers in the world' is apt (1 Peter 1.1; 2.11; the same vocabulary used of Abraham in Genesis 23).

Now I may be odd, but I am not silly.
The oddities listed above are not the ones that really matter.

What about loving my enemies? What about leading through serving? What about trading-in tolerance for personal humility? What about recognising that tithing is an outdated means of keeping 90% for myself? What about believing Jesus really is the truth and the only way to God? What about making those ridiculous beattitudes the habit of my life (Matthew 5.1-12)? What about suffering well for Jesus' sake? I'd love to be able to do that. What about repenting of the idolatry of family? What about moving next time into a cheaper, smaller house? What about being willing to be downwardly mobile with my career, if Jesus requires it of me? What about hating what Jesus hates, and not just loving what Jesus loves? On and on it goes... This is the brand of strange that I'd love to have in my life.

Yes, this second list of oddities is the important one. But then, on second thoughts, maybe I really am a bit silly. Because I do find that the first list can help build my fitness and ready me for the second list.

nice chatting



damianv said…
Wow, I can't believe no one's commented yet - a really challenging post Paul, thanks. I admit to finding your "What if" list rather unsettling...

I don't know how you find time to write, let alone the head space to think and read as deeply as you do. Please keep doing it!
Paul said…
Thanks, Damian.

I have had the occasional feedback suggesting that I can write in a way that closes down discussion - rather than opens it up...!

I do think that discovering a winsome, subversive, attractive and gracious oddness that can keep our pursuit of relevance honest is a deep missional challenge facing the church in New Zealand at the moment.

Love to you and your yummies

damianv said…
Food for thought - thanks. You've opened up a number of conversations here in Nelson, at least here in Brook St!

And now I can see how you find the time....5:38am?!

Love back to you and yours.

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