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I’m sharing below the content of an email I sent yesterday to the pastor of the church we often attend. This past Sunday he used the book of Jonah as the basis for a sermon urging us to move away from self-righteousness. It was a good sermon, but, as you’ll see below, I call attention to the fact that he omitted an important element of the story.

Looking back on what I wrote 24 hours later I recognize that I did get a bit preachy and ended up writing with more than a little ostentation. Nevertheless, I hope the pastor will look past those flaws and be open to the ideas I shared with him. I hope, too, he will reach out for further conversation.

I am also a realistic person. I realize that centuries of Christian theology and interpretation have a momentum all their own. I may have just taken the first steps towards being seen as a “special interest” Christian with his own personal agenda or even as a person who has left the tracks of orthodox Christian faith. We’ll see.

Dear Pastor M—:

Thanks for your sermon this past Sunday.

I appreciate how this series and the several before this have focused on practical topics in the Christian life. The church I was taken to as a child focused almost exclusively on abstract theological doctrines. Not surprisingly, if I’m not careful, I can easily fall back into associating church with esoteric matters and more than a little boredom. So I appreciate the fact that you and other speakers have been candidly tackling topics where the Christian faith intersects with life.

There are two other reasons I write.

The first is that I noticed in your sermon on self-righteousness that you omitted a small but significant dimension of Jonah’s interaction with God and Ninevah. Specifically, you omitted the animals of Ninevah.

When, to Jonah’s dismay, the king of Ninevah hears of Jonah’s judgment on the city and that at least some of the Ninevites were repenting, he uses his authority to make the repentance city-wide. His proclamation calls for the people and animals to neither eat nor drink. It also calls for the people and animals to be covered in sackcloth.

And in the final verses of the book, God speaks wisdom to Jonah who, as you suggested, is the iconic religious jerk. God leaves Jonah (and us) with a rhetorical question: shouldn’t God care about a city which has over 120,000 human residents and also many animals?

The fates of the people and animals of Ninevah are, in other words, intertwined, and God has compassion for them all.

Interestingly enough, in the many images you can find online of Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, it is hard to find any that also pay attention to the animals of Ninevah. This image by Caspar Luiken is an exception, although you have to look a bit carefully to find the livestock. Follow Jonah’s outstretched right hand. 

I wish you would have called out the animal elements of the story even briefly.

One of the greatest examples of Christian self-righteousness is our belief that because we have been given dominion over God’s earth that the living things around us are of negligible value and are here only for our pleasure and utility. This, in turn, has led us to rule like tyrants over the earth as a whole and over the patches of Creation that we each have impact on as individuals.

This is not the kind of ruling that God models for us nor that God expects of us. Good rulers care about the health and wellbeing of those they have responsibility for. Good shepherds are examples of what good ruling is all about. And, as Jesus noted, good shepherds are even willing to lay down their lives for their sheep.

That Christians have been some of the most self-righteous in justifying humanity’s violence against God’s earth has communicated something falsely repugnant about the Christian faith. Ironically, a good number of non-Christians I know have an intuitive sense that this is an amazing world and that how a person treats the world reflects the state of that person’s heart. Perhaps they are the modern Ninevites? Perhaps we are the modern Jonahs in this regard?

And here’s the second reason I write. I’d like to encourage our church to make a concerted effort to be more mindful of God’s earth in what is preached, what is taught, and what is lived out as one element of a whole Christian life. How about starting with a sermon series on that topic?

As you can probably tell, this topic is close to my heart. If I can be of any service in that regard, I’d be eager to help.

I’d be happy to share, for example, how many of the most pioneering and influential sustainable livestock grazers in our country today are Christian. This is a story worth telling. By living out their faith in how they farm, they are making the world better and also offering powerful testimony to what being a Christian is all about.

Thanks very much for your unique gifts as a pastor and teacher and your commitment throughout your life to the Church.

Sincerely,

Nathan Aaberg

 

Sometimes you come upon a book or an article or even just a quotation that captures a truth or insight that you’ve long been sensing but have been unable to put your finger on exactly.

I came upon an interview with Ken Myers on The Christian Post website that did just that.

Here’s how the introductory text to the interview describes Myers: “Myers is the founder and host of MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, a bimonthly audio magazine featuring interviews with some of today’s foremost Christian thought leaders in academics, politics, and the arts. The mission: “To assist Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.” Myers, a former NPR reporter, is himself a thoughtful social critic who thinks deeply about the interplay between the church and the larger world.”

Another good profile of Ken Myers can be found here.

Here’s one section of the interview that especially stood out:

CP: What is the biggest challenge facing the church today?

Myers: It’s not “the culture,” as we often hear, that poses the most significant challenge for the church today. It’s the culture of the church.

What I mean is, we have reduced the Gospel to an abstract message of salvation that can be believed without having any necessary consequences for how we live. In contrast, the redemption announced in the Bible is clearly understood as restoring human thriving in creation.

Redemption is not just a restoration of our status before God through the life and work of Jesus Christ, but a restoration of our relationship with God as well. And our relationship with God is expressed in how we live. Salvation is about God’s restoring our whole life, not just one invisible aspect of our being (our soul), but our life as lived out in the world in ways that are in keeping with how God made us. The goal of salvation is blessedness for us as human beings. In other words, we are saved so that our way of life can be fully in keeping with God’s ordering of reality.

Here’s another:

If congregations in America were deeply and creatively committed to nurturing the culture of the city of God in their life together, I think it would have an inexorable effect on the lives of our neighbors. But I fear that too many churches are shaping people to be what Kenda Creasy Dean calls being “Christianish” – or not deeply Christian at all. The more faithful we are in living out the ramifications of a Christian understanding of all things, the more out-of-synch we will be in American culture. But why should we wish for anything else? What can we offer the world if we are just like the world?

Interestingly enough, many top businesses view the culture of their organizations as a vital factor in whether they will be ultimately successful or not. One article even calls on business leaders to be “cultural warriors.”

A great example of the difference a distinct and dynamic organization culture can make is Southwest Airlines. Here’s an insightful interview with Dave Ridley, a former executive at Southwest Airlines and a Christian, who talks about the dynamic, employee-focused culture of Southwest Airlines. At one point Ridley highlights the fact that Southwest Airlines is obviously not a Christian organization, and “Yet the culture (of Southwest Airlines) is very reflective of what one would hope to see – but often is not seen – in organizations that claim to have the gospel at their core (including lots of churches unfortunately).”

I’ve come away more convinced than ever that church leaders need to be energetically, thoughtuflly, and artfully shaping the culture of their churches. Designing worship services to reflect a whole faith is just one step that needs to be taken.

Ole Hallesby’s book Prayer, first published in 1931, is full of wisdom and insights. It also contains a thought that may stop you in your tracks.

In the chapter of the Norwegian theologian’s book entitled “Problems of Prayer,” Hallesby asks, “Are our intercessions necessary as far as God is concerned and the work He would have accomplished in this world?”

In other words, why pray for God to do things in the world that God was going to do anyway?

Here is Hallesby’s answer:

“We can answer by saying, in the first place, that it is impossible for God to bring the world forward to its goal without humankind.

The attitude which we take is the vital factor in determining whether the world shall attain its goal or not. God has voluntarily bound Himself to us in HIs government of the world. From the very beginning of the history of revelation we see that God has established His kingdom only where He could find people who would voluntarily permit themselves to be used by Him.

It thus becomes evident that God has voluntarily made HImself dependent also upon our prayer. For, after all, prayer is the deciding factor in the life of all who surrender themselves to God to be used by Him.

What we do in God’s kingdom is entirely dependent on what we are. And what we are depends again upon what we receive. And what we receive, depends again upon prayer. This applies not only to the work of God in us, but also to the work of God through us.”

If you’re like me, you’ll read these words of a conservative theologian and then need to read them again. They challenge our conceptions of God’s relationship with the world and with us. This set of ideas actually makes how we live and what we live for even more significant.

Attentive and focused prayer should, consequently, be something we fervently do. It should be a habit. It will shape us and, in mysterious ways, impact the world.

I would, however, take things one step beyond Hollesby. I would urge you to make God’s earth a regular focus of your prayers.

This doesn’t happen at your typical church.

But it should.

Just as human failings and fallenness have led to unimaginable suffering throughout the centuries in people, human failings and sin have corrupted and caused unimaginable violence to the creatures and systems of God’s earth.

You and I should pray and pray hard for God’s earth and its renewal.

I recently read, for example, that surveys are finding that approximately 50 per cent of the corals at the Great Barrier reef off of the coast of Austraila have died due to rising sea temperatures, more acidic conditions in the ocean, and other factors. Because coral reefs are foundational habitat for so much marine life, the dying off of corals at the Great Barrier Reef and other places around the globe is a crisis for ocean life and ultimately for human life as well.

It’s also one more profound and tragic symptom of our spiritual dysfunction.

We should pray, too, for those whose calling in life is to use God’s earth, to steward it, to study it, and to protect it even when doing so puts their lives at risk.

The whole faith church I want to see emerge would make this kind of prayer a regular and serious part of the church community’s life.

Is prayer all we should do?

Absolutely not.

We should act.

In our everyday habits. In being part of larger changes in our community and in how our economy and government work.

And, ironically, our actions are also built on prayer.

You can see that logic in the words of Hallesby I shared earlier in this post. Elsewhere in his book, Hallesby also writes this, “Everyday Christianity cannot be practiced unless we incessantly receive into our lives that supply of spiritual power which is necessary in order to preserve within us that spirit which is willing to deny self, to serve others, to endure wrong and to let others have the last word.”

I would add that God’s Spirit can also give us boldness, tenacity, and intensity to combine with the fruits of the spirit. Does that sound paradoxical? Does that sound unlike your “ideal” Christian?  Then take another look at the life of Jesus. He prayed. He asked his disciples to pray with him.  And during his three years of mission, he led a dynamic, disruptive life that challenged everyone he came in contact with. He knew, too, that what he was doing was putting him on a path to the ultimate sacrifice.

Prayer is a way to be filled with God’s Spirit which will give us the power to act in the world the way God wants us to act.

Being beings of matter in a world that matters because it matters to God means that we, if we listen carefully, are called to sustain God’s earth in the way we act.

Pray today.

 

P.S. Do you pray for God’s earth? If so, please let me know that you do. And if you have a specific prayer that you’d like to share, please pass it along to me at wholefaithlivingearth@gmail.com.

 

Back in mid-August of 2016, I posted a blog entitled Food and the Whole Faith Church. In it I wrote the following:

“A defining feature of a whole faith church will be that this community of believers will be fully committed to demonstrating the proper and attentive relationship between humanity and Creation in its common meals, including communion.

This means that the food of the whole faith church will come as much as is practically possible from farms where the land, water, and animals of God’s earth are stewarded in ways that God would find fitting of a good, loving shepherd and from farm enterprises which support a good quality of life for the farmers and their communities.”

Then in late September, I wrote a follow-up piece that explored some of the practicalities of applying that principle with ten supplementary principles.

Because food is so central to culture and because forming a church with a new culture of food would be radically different from the life of churches most people know, I believe it’s necessary to wrestle with more of the practicalities and concerns this idea presents. Below you’ll find a series of questions that might reasonably be asked about the ideas I’ve proposed followed by my responses:

 

Isn’t a focus on choosing right foods to eat a new legalism that replaces the Gospel of grace with a gospel of deeds?

No. And an emphatic double no.

It is true that early Christians were concerned about food arguments dividing them and compromising their ability to evangelize diverse groups of people. And I’ve become convinced that church members should not be so focused on food purity that they refuse to eat, if there is no other choice, food they normally wouldn’t eat when it is offered to them in social situations with people who are not members of the church.

But you would have to twist what is in the Bible as a whole to believe that a Christian faith does not express itself in action and in daily decisions. This conviction is one of the pillars of a whole faith church.

Living out the faith and the loving spirit that comes with that faith will compel us to make every detail of our church’s life fit together. The common meals of a whole faith church are the home turf of that church. In those common meals we have the right to express our faith completely and holistically. Not doing so actually hollows out all of the meaning of the Christian faith. How Christian is a community that eats ham, for exactly, that has come from pigs raised in factory farms where thousands are kept inside their whole lives, where fecal particulates fill the air, where local waterways are defiled, where the lives of neighbors are made miserable, and where the pigs are fed a steady stream of antibiotics to promote growth which contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria that kill people?

Our faith is an incarnational faith. It is not just an abstract assent to abstract doctrines and ideas. It calls for belief in God through Jesus that our actual lives rest on and are rooted in. Jesus showed us what that looks like. Jesus’ earthy parables, like that of the Good Samaritan, rooted ideas and values in paradigm-shifting stories.

Nevertheless, there is nuance in this conversation that must be respected and approached carefully. There is, for example, a whole spectrum of farming methods. And the question of how to balance ideals and practicality is one a thoughtful farmer must wrestle with everyday. I hope all of us are wise enough to know that there are things we don’t know that we don’t know. The whole faith church will need to avoid legalism and harsh judgment. Its members will need to humbly do their best they can to discern what kind of food is fitting for the common meals of the church. They will need to do so with a commitment to truth and also with God’s abiding love and in their hearts.

 

Won’t this turn away potential members?

Yes. The whole faith church will unapologetically have a tangible, distinctive culture that reveals itself in many aspects of the common life of the church and in how members live out their lives. As a result, there will be many aspects (and not just food choices) of the common life in the whole faith church that will be challenging and countercultural. The degree of commitment asked of members may be too much for people who want a casual commitment to God.

But this approach to food and other elements of a church’s common life together also has the potential to attract people who would otherwise not find church meaningful. Some of the people this approach to food might attract are justice-minded, loving people who would respond to a church’s message if the culture of the church was consistent with the Gospel message.

And we should not underestimate the attractiveness of any group of people who are loving, action-oriented, creative, diverse, and who stand for something in all aspects of their lives.

 

Isn’t this a case of a social fad or movement influencing the church rather than the other way around?

I don’t think so. What I am proposing is that the culture of the whole faith church to reflect a willingness to actually apply a transformed and remade heart that sees the world the way God sees it and translates those values into actions in everyday life.

But, hypothetically, if there is some truth to the idea that the larger good food movement is having influence on this conception of a whole faith church, then I believe it is a positive influence. The Church has been largely acquiescent in accepting “progress” that has actually been systematically injurious to people and to Creation in many fields. Technological advancement, the application of that technology, and the direction the free market takes our communities are not automatically good or in keeping with Christian principles. And, of course, neither are they automatically bad or not in keeping with Christian principles. The Church and local churches have simply not been paying attention or guiding Christians in moral, nuanced ways. This is because the Church has largely been spiritual in an abstract and has tried to avoid conflict with the powers that be. As a result, all too often the loudest voices of love and hunger for righteousness in our world are not Christian.

 

Won’t this be expensive?

It’s true that applying Christian values to food choices would mean that the cost of food purchased by the local whole faith church would be higher than it would be buying typical food from a typical grocery store.

But I would make a number of points. First, any church can, if motivated, find a way to afford something that is important to its values. Tradeoffs can be made in other areas.

Second, a whole faith church will think of food and eating choices as part of their community practice of faith, in essence a faith discipline. Food choices in our modern world are not just “food” choices but declarations of what one truly values.

Third, it is far more expensive in the larger context to eat food that has not been raised in ways compatible with a whole faith understanding of the Christian faith. If a faith community supports a food system that is contributing to the diminishment of God’s world, to health issues, and to an agriculture that is not as good as it should be for farmers and their communities, then the faith community is not truly loving its neighbors nor God.  It is not putting its money where its mouth is.

Finally, a church with a dynamic culture that gives purpose, community, and coherence to everything in its members’ lives will be tremendously inspirational and meaningful. People who are members will give generously, perhaps more generously than they would at church where there is more of a lukewarm sense of common commitment.

 

Would this mean whole faith churches would be vegetarian?

Not necessarily. Each whole faith church would have some latitude in what it deemed to be food choices compatible with the loving heart a Christian will have shaped by God. Respect should be given, within the general commitment to apply a whole faith church’s values to the common meals, to the community context of the church.

I must admit that I’ve come to see the consumption of animals in a more complex, nuanced way over the years. Through the research and teaching I’ve been exposed to through my work, it’s become clear to me that for farms to be truly sustainable, livestock are indispensable. It is very hard, for example, to find a natural ecosystem where there are not animals that eat vegetation and poop and help nutrients stay in the system. What’s more, I’ve now seen and read about a number of pasture-based livestock farms that are very humane and treat the animals with great respect. If we make the sacrificial commitment to treat the animals and the land with great respect and affection at the cost of some commercial success, then asking the livestock to also make a sacrifice as part of whole lives that are generally good and respectful of their natures seems to me the best that can be expected of in this fallen world. That’s a hard sentence for me to write as I was vegetarian for many years.

But I must be clear about one thing – I do believe that there is no place in a church’s common meals, for example, for meat from factory-raised, inhumanely treated animals.

 

Will the effort and resources needed to do this take away energy and time that would be better used to advance the core mission of the church?

There would certainly be an upfront investment of time and energy to figure out the guidelines for the church’s common meals and to find the new sources of food to implement those guidelines. But once a system and sources were figured out, this would, like other elements of church and family life, become relatively routine. Down the road, members will have a hard time remembering when and why they could have done it any other way.

 

Won’t this principle antagonize farmers and create an unnecessary divide in the Church?

This is a big, sensitive topic. For an established church in a rural area, it might be too hard to try to adopt this principle because of the controversy and rifts it would create. But I foresee whole faith churches primarily being new churches that spring up to serve people who want to worship and be in communion with other people who share a whole faith vision of what the Christian faith is all about. It will be easier for new churches to establish a new culture since they are starting from scratch.

Of course, ideally, whole faith churches would spring up in rural areas, too. If they do, will farmers whose farming methods wouldn’t meet the whole faith church’s threshold for how a good and loving shepherd would farm feel welcome or harshly judged? Sadly, I think some farmers would feel harshly judged even if that was not the intent.

In light of the sensitivity of this topic for the relationship with farmers, I also wrote Farmers and the Whole Faith Church. Some key points from that piece are: (1) it’s important to recognize what a difficult and challenging calling it is to be a farmer of any kind, (2) paying attention to farming and the impact that our mainstream farming system has on farmers and their communities is actually a pro-farmer orientation, and (3) Proverbs 27:23-27 is a reminder that it is all too easy for all of us to be obsessed with wealth and power and to forget that the foundation of a healthy, prosperous, resilient society and community is an agriculture that is rooted in careful stewardship care of each square foot of land and of each individual animal being raised.

Here’s a paragraph that I believe bears repeating:

We should empathize with farmers who have to live and work here at the tension point between a civilization’s riches and a farmer’s calling to treat God’s earth well and to produce good, healthy food. They are caught in a system. Doctors who cannot give their patients the time and care they need because of our current health care system are also stuck in a similar situation. That is a difficult, stressful place to be.

The whole faith church would in no way judge the character of any farmer but would in fact be warm and welcoming to all people. The whole faith church will have, in fact, special empathy for farmers. By living out its principles, the whole faith church will actually be more pro-farmer and more supportive of rural community life than churches that ignore the values that undergird our current agricultural system.

 

Will the whole faith church not care what members eat outside of the common meals of the church community?

That’s a good question. I’ve been grappling with that point for a while. The whole faith church will care. I’m convinced that one of the ways the whole faith church will be distinctive is that membership will truly mean something.  People who become members in a whole faith church will not only commit themselves to certain beliefs but also commit themselves to certain ways of living and be accountable in some way. A central tenet of this way of living couldn’t help but be attentiveness to how one’s life habits reflect the God-focused, God-shaped heart one now has.

Will the whole faith church expect members to eat every meal to the level of ethical discernment as the common meals of the church? Probably not, although that would be a good goal for any family. But I would be convinced that members would commit themselves to filtering their food buying and eating choices through their faith.

The whole faith church would need to support their member families in that commitment. What would that look like? I’m thinking of something like David Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. My wife and I have begun taking this class on money management through a local church. It’s a powerful, carefully thought-through curriculum that is having a big impact on how Christians and other people manage their money. It’s already impacting how we think about and manage our money.

Why isn’t there something like this to help Christians think carefully about how they steward God’s earth? Because eating is so important for health, for God’s Creation, and for the kind of agriculture that shapes the lives of farmers and rural communities, Christians should put as much thought into their eating as their use of money. The whole faith church should create a curriculum similar to Financial Peace University that would help Christians live out their values in their food choices. The curriculum would not only provide the thought foundation behind thinking carefully about food and guidance about how to determine whether food is compatible with whole Christian faith values, but also provide practical help. Meal plans. Cooking lessons. Visits to farms (or at least virtual visits through a video presentation). Perhaps even special buying relationships with local and sustainable food farmers that make good, healthy food available to members at a reduced cost?

Dave Ramsey asks in one of his video presentations what would happen to God’s Kingdom if millions of Christians applied good principles of money management (including generous giving) in their daily lives. That’s a powerful question.

An equally powerful question is this – “What would happen if millions of Christians applied good principles of shepherding God’s earth in their daily lives with a special focus on their eating and farming choices?”

I’ve been trying to write this piece for more than two weeks. But no matter how I revised and reworked it, it didn’t feel right.

I’m beginning to understand why.

I’ve wanted to write a sweeping, harsh, black-and-white piece. I’ve wanted to assert that Christians with whole, living faiths would avoid being part of organizations that consistently use power wrongly and to resist wrong things being done by organizations of which they are part. And I’ve even wanted to spell that all out in pretty detailed terms.

What is giving me mental static is that things are not always black and white. In this fallen world, people and organizations can be contradictory mixes of good and bad. There is complexity and nuance. Our government system allows for many conflicting voices. The free market allows for both wonderful creativity and destructive inventions. And discernment becomes even more difficult when organizations and systems are large and longstanding and produce both good and bad.

What also pulls me back is that Jesus taught us to be careful in judging and accusing others. In fact, Jesus didn’t seem to criticize the Roman centurions he dealt with for being part of an empire built on cruelty.

So I’ve realized I was trying to create a definitive statement that didn’t match the complexity and nuance of the world and of the Bible itself.

Yet, I am 100% convinced that Christians whose hearts are filled with God will not stand passively by when wrong is being done.

The story of Ahab and Jezebel that is told in 1 Kings 21 still has, I believe, something important to teach us.

Ahab was the king of Israel at this time and served as king for 22 years somewhere between 880 and 850 BC. Israel then was not the Israel of today. It was the northern of the two kingdoms that had persisted after King David’s and King Solomon’s unified kingdom had broken up. Ahab had married the king of Phoenicia’s daughter – Jezebel – who brought with her the Baal-worshipping tradition of her people and, we’ll see, a dominating spirit.

King Ahab noticed a vineyard owned by Naboth, a resident of Jezreel, next to his palace in the same town. King Ahab offered Naboth what seemed, on the face of it, a reasonable offer – let me give you a better vineyard in exchange for yours or name the price and I’ll pay it.

Naboth refused. He didn’t do so out of spite. He did so because of the framework through which he saw the world. This framework was based on a God-focused understanding that the land was actually God’s. As a result, each Israelite family understood that they had received only a lease for the land, which was to be their permanent inheritance. It was also understood that God’s people were not to sell or lose this inheritance. It was a law and an orientation towards life that King Ahab didn’t understand and wanted to disregard. He wanted to deal only in terms of real estate, finance, and commerce. (For this insight and others about the context of this situation, this article was helpful.)

Ahab pouted and sulked about Naboth’s refusal to sell until Jezebel found out what the matter was. She upbraided him for not acting like a king. (In the NIV she actually calls him the “king over Israel” which subtly asserts her view that kingship is about domination of one’s subjects rather than serving them and their overall interests before God). She told him not to worry. She would take care of it.

Ahab didn’t ask any questions about how she’ll do that.

Jezebel worked out an elaborate scheme in which Naboth was falsely accused by elders and nobles who lived in Jezreel of cursing God and King Ahab. Those elders and nobles then stoned him to death. They were Naboth’s neighbors.

The Stoning of Naboth (Dirck Coornhert)

The Stoning of Naboth (Dirck Coornhert). 

When King Ahab heard that Naboth was dead (again, no questions), he rushed off to take possession. God consequently commanded Elijah to confront Ahab and to tell him that he will die. (Oddly, Ahab confessed, and God delayed the day when King Ahab and Jezebel did die in brutal fashion.)

This story helps us see key characteristics of people with power who are acting badly. The characteristics of Ahab-Jezebel, Inc. we see are:

Possessed by greed, power, and prestige.

Not seeing people and God’s earth through God’s eyes

Not loving one’s neighbors 

Not accepting limits on the use of power 

Using power and law to get what is illegitimately desired.

Blind to violence inflicted on the vulnerable 

The rule of Ahab-Jezebel, Inc. in this world and even in our country is not new. It has actually been the norm of this fallen world for millennia.

We’ve seen this most recently at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation with Energy Transfer Partners and the Army Corps of Engineers ready to threaten the Standing Rock Reservation’s water supply and to destroy sites sacred to the tribe. Balancing human creativity and enterprise with humility and love appears more challenging to humanity than devising a perpetual motion machine.

So how would a person who is a follower of Jesus in this life, especially in a democracy and in a country in which we can choose who to work for, choose to act when faced with an order from Ahab-Jezebel, Inc.?

It’s unsettling to me that God ultimately calls Ahab and Jezebel to account for what they’ve done but God doesn’t seem to do so with the elders and nobles. Nothing seems to happen them for doing something so clearly wrong. Does God not care if we are like the elders and nobles who take part in using official power and twisted legal strategies?

I believe, however, that God does care. We are morally responsible before God for how we act in this world as individuals.

So this raises the question of whether we can go along when we work for a company or agency that is systematically following the values of Ahab-Jezebel, Inc. rather than the values of the god we know through Jesus and the Bible?

We’d probably all agree that a Christian couldn’t rightly work for a company making pornographic films. How about a factory farm? From what I’ve read and heard, the factory farm is pretty close on the moral scale. How about a company carrying out mountaintop mining?

Things can get dicier when a company or government agency fills some legitimate roles but also, in particular cases, is right in line with Ahab and Jezebel. Could a Christian work for Energy Transfer Partners? Or Monsanto?

Again, I believe we face nuance. Picking and choosing who to work for is not a luxury many people have. And it’s so easy to point out the speck in one’s neighbor’s eye and ignore the timber in one’s own.

Yet, if Christians don’t wrestle with these questions, Christianity ends up standing for nothing.

Our tendency is to put our faith in the religion/doctrine silo and to only let it influence other elements of our life where it is safe to do so and where that won’t cost us comfort, convenience, and security.

I believe Jesus wants our whole life dedicated to him and wholly filled with his love, joy, and peace that are expressed with strength and conviction. A good church would encourage each of its members to live out a whole faith in all aspects of life and would help its members make tough decisions about when to resist, when to try to change, and when to accept. A living church would even ask hard questions of each other in truth and love and passionately support those who who do not go along with Ahab-Jezebel, Inc.

And following Jesus would be far more appealing if people saw Christians living out values of love and a hunger for virtue and justice in every part of their lives.

It’s time, more than ever, for that to become the norm.