On the same day that Jon Acuff wrote a self-affirmation about his success as a Christian celebrity, Jeff Dunn at Internet Monk posted his own version of the “purpose-driven life” based on three of Jesus’ commonly preached themes: becoming poor, blind, and dead. It was such a fresh contrast from the kind of self-help drivel that Christians have come to accept as Biblical provided it has a few verses from Proverbs slapped on top. The purpose that we are given by the real gospel isn’t good news to the success-oriented bourgeois American ethos that many so-called “conservative” evangelicals have modified their Christianity to fit. The real gospel is good news to the poor, the blind, and the dead and to those of us who accept the utter foolishness that we’d do better to join them.
Dunn writes: “God’s purpose for me is see that I am poor. Hopelessly in debt with no chance to redeem myself. None at all. For it is only when I can admit I am poor that I can become rich. When I am poor, truly and utterly impoverished, then the kingdom of heaven is mine.” It is not so much that we are supposed to wallow in our poverty, but that we come to recognize that everything we have is a gift from God and we own nothing. John Wesley said that we should “look upon [ourselves] as one of a certain number of indigent persons who are to be provided for out of that portion of [God’s wealth] wherewith [we] are entrusted.” To be poor is simply to be a steward of what is God’s rather than my own god.
Dunn writes: “I know that sounds crazy. God gave us eyes to see, didn’t he? Yet he tells me I am to walk by faith, not by sight. I’m to set aside what I can plainly see and trust God for what I can’t see.” One of my favorite verses is John 9:39, where Jesus says, “I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” When certain Christians talk about the need for theological “clarity,” what they are really talking about is their need for control. In order to really live in the faith that is “the substance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1), we need to learn how to embrace our blindness and understand that we see is a “poor reflection” of what we will see “face to face” with God (1 Cor 13:12). Otherwise, the thing we worship (and control) is not really God but an idol.
Dunn writes: “We all fight so very hard to live longer, live better, live life to its fullest. We want life and that more abundant. Yet Jesus said the only way I can follow him is to shoulder my own cross and die.” Christianity is not “Your Best Life Now” or making your dreams of fame and fortune into a reality a la Jon Acuff. It is learning how to be “handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that his life might be revealed in us” (2 Cor 4:11). The slavery that we live under when we’re self-absorbed, self-reliant people is so endemic to who we are that only the concept of death and resurrection can describe the transformation that we need to undergo. But once we have died to ourselves, the freedom on the other side is amazing. I’ve tasted that freedom but have yet to enter it completely because I’ve still got a lot of selfishness that needs to die.