The rallying cry of “spiritual but not religious” in this apocalyptic moment is well intentioned, and it might even be helpful as some of us process the eruptions taking place in our faith and life. But like a vision of God that isn’t centered on Jesus, it will not sustain us. Nor will it renew, reform, or sustain the Christian faith in America.
The goal is to arrive not at a status quo faith or some semblance of faith or a vague version of faith but at a flourishing faith.
To step into our brilliant new beginning, both personally and collectively, we need to first find our center in the person of Jesus.
And then we need to go deep.
After having [an] experience with Jesus, I was lifted out of the miry cynicism into which I had sunk. The clouds of deconstruction cleared to make room for something else: hope. I wasn’t out of the wilderness yet. But from the depths of my heart, I began to believe the light is winning.
Over the next months, and really the last couple of years, I found myself letting go of the things that had bound me in the dark. Slowly but surely, I was both coming to terms with the real hurt and pain of my authoritarian upbringing and my failed ministry, owning up to my season of empire business, and releasing bitterness toward those who had wronged me. I was also learning to accept myself for who I truly am despite all the contrary messages I had internalized — to finally believe that I am inherently valuable and truly enough, and to walk in my unconditional belovedness before God.
And in the midst of this new process, I was starting to sense something else: belonging.
Belonging — this is the essence of a flourishing life.
To believe, as my friend Justin Carver puts it, that “I really have a place in this world.” And to live, as Yale theologian Miroslav Volf puts it, “into our human and personal fullness.”1
Volf has written the book on flourishing (titled, appropriately, Flourishing), in which he further defines it this way: “Flourishing… stands for the life that is lived well, the life that goes well, and the life that feels good — all three together, inextricably intertwined. I use the term interchangeably with ‘the good life’ and ‘life worth living.’”2
Volf continues by naming the bookends of the biblical narrative — the garden of Eden in Genesis on one hand (Genesis 1) and the city coming down out of heaven in Revelation on the other (Revelation 21) — as the best images we have of human flourishing. While these are not achievable in the world as we know it (utopias are a lost cause), they can be the goal toward which we are always moving as we seek flourishing in the “already,” the here and now. And, for believers, they can be the firm expectation of what awaits us, truly and completely, in the “not yet,” when King Jesus fully puts an end to sinful empire.
The larger point of Volf’s work is instructive here too: in the age of market-driven globalization, religions are necessary now more than ever to make us people who “do not live by bread alone.”3 The visions of flourishing that Christianity and the church are communicating are desperately needed in these times. And so the doom and gloom responses to religious decline in the US, whether from those panicking at the potential losses or from those who would welcome the extinction of our faith, are simply not going to help us or the world find the good life.
No, the vision of flourishing for human beings and the world uniquely offered by the Christian faith is leading to flourishing for that faith itself. And the spiritual belonging that we, and the world, most need is found not in superficial strategies and obligations but by going deep into the roots of our religion. The home that I have found in this season, the home that I believe many are finding in these apocalyptic times, and the home that I hope you find too, is located down deep in the Christian tradition.
But here’s the thing. If you’re looking for a good faith that will translate into the good life, no matter what trends are unfolding in the culture or the church, you might need to become a bit of a rebel to find it.
- Miroslav Volf, Flourishing (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015), ix.
- Ibid, 22.
Excerpted with permission from The Light Is Winning by Zach Hoag, copyright Zach Hoag.
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A devoted Christian is a rebel in today’s society. Believing in God’s goodness and in our own belovedness is a radical thing to do. Flourishing because Jesus paid for us is a rebellion against our culture of doom and gloom, don’t you think? Come and share with us on our blog. We’d love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily