Dig Down to Build Up
Early in the morning I will be in a comfortable room with affluent men giving a talk on Christian heroism. I have a vision of the idea of “Heroic Living” I want to build for them. Before I can start building that vision I need to dig a foundational base.
How do I represent the Prince of Peace at a men’s group called “Warrior’s Heart”? Their tagline gets me started. But what does this mean? How do Christian men get unleashed? What is Kingdom impact?
The Kingdom’s Impact is Ultimately Shalom
God’s good creation experienced ruin in rebellion but was redeemed and will be restored to flourish in peace. The overcoming of injustice is done with justice. But justice without mercy would be devastating and complete the ruin of rebellion. Mercy without justice would exonerate the rebellious in a way that would perpetuate the ruin. The glory and genius of God overcame these challenges for us in Christ. This is the hope we can experience and then extend to others.
“He has shown you, O mortal, 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.” – Micah 6:8
“Unleashing” Grace Changed Men Unleashes Grace
The ‘unleashing’ of men who have experienced God’s humbling mercy and justice are to be identified by that experience. Grace saves us without works or boasting. God’s grace then empowers us to do the works he intends us to do, also without boasting. God’s grace changes who we are; it also changes whose we are.
Changed Identity = Changed Mission
Humbling grace establishes God’s justice and mercy in us. The more we strengthen the ongoing understanding and experience of gracious justice and mercy in one another, the more we are empowered to graciously extend justice and mercy on behalf of Christ. Paul highlights this in Philippians 1:27-30 and then goes on to give a range of examples.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
Live in a manner worthy, firm in one spirit, striving together, not frightened, clearly communicating the gospel difference, believing and suffering, engaged in the one conflict…. this is heroic living! How does this happen? What does it actually look like?
This idea of a disciplined sacrificing of your life as the key to gaining your life is ultimately embodied in Jesus. Paul highlights this by making Jesus the ultimate example of heroic living.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
“…he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death…”
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest…” Philippians 2:5-11
What does heroic living look like in our day?
Heroic living is not about dramatic living. Heroic living is about obedient living.
To say “Jesus is Lord” is to sacrifice autonomy. I am not Lord of my life; he is. When you intentionally take ownership of your grace-given essential identity in the Lord, and valuing what the Lord values, you are passing through sacrifice to obedience, from humility to participation in glory. This starts with Christ, is accomplished by Christ in us and is celebrated in praise to Christ. It is glorious to be included in him!
We are to take responsibility for our distinct roles in our common cause.
The heroic example of Jesus is the model of all other heroic examples of obedient living. Right after explaining the idea Paul exhorts us to implement God’s grace work in us. Not working out our rescue, our salvation, is illustrated by the Exodus generation’s fear and ingratitude. What does fear and ingratitude sound like? Grumbling. Do not be defined by what you are against. Be defined by what you are for.
Timothy is offered as one example of obedient living. Philippians 2:19-24
Timothy’s story is along the line of most of our hero story ideas. He courageously goes cross-culturally facing persecution and hostility to directly extend Kingdom impact. Timothy is very, very, cool.
Epaphroditus is offered as another example of obedient living. Philippians 2:25-30.
Epaphroditus is not our typical hero story. He went in a support role. He struggled in his short mission to travel to different place to help a recognized hero. Do you know anyone who names their boy “Epaphroditus?”. Epaphroditus’ obedient living does not seem as cool as Timothy’s, but Paul goes out of his way to ensure that the church honors him. Timothy and Epaphroditus had different roles but they have the same cause.
A Christian ranger in Burma and a Christian businessman in America find very different roles. What they have in common is what matters more. Who is their Lord? What is their Lord’s cause? What questions do each men ask himself, and ask God? What do they do with the partial answers they receive?
Who are your examples of heroic living? Is it possible that someone might say you are an example of heroic living to them? Heroic living may or may not be dramatic, but heroic living, Jesus-style, is unquestionably possible.
photo by Chris Sinclair