// on free lunches and the kingdom of God

(you can actually buy these for your fridge)

(you can actually buy these for your fridge)

What does the voice of God sound like to you? I realise that’s a fairly daunting question to start any piece of writing with, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for the past couple of weeks, ever since starting an internship at St. Aldates church in Oxford, and, honestly, I’m curious about what you think. You see, ever since I started here I’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer generosity of people here – the amount of people who have offered their houses or their ovens or their Xboxes to me, and others, is huge, and a real blessing, especially at the start of a year like this. But it’s also got me wondering if there’s something else going on here. It’s very hard to accept that kind of hospitality without being challenged about your own generosity and hospitality and servanthood, and sooner or later you start asking yourself whether or not you would act in the same way.

It starts to feel like God might be prodding you, not to put you to shame, but in order that you might bless others with all that you’ve been given. Which is a great thing, but it’s also noticeable just how easy it is to avoid that prodding when the pressure is on; to assume that because your life is busy or you don’t have the money, or the time, or whatever it is, that different rules apply. I say that because at the moment I’m acutely aware of how easy it would be to fall into bad habits; because, if I don’t write it down, in a couple of weeks I may not even notice that it’s there. They say that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit. What habits are there in you that have been there so long that you don’t even notice them any more?

They say that your character tells a story about who you truly are, too, and I have to wonder if the way I act would ever really challenge anyone (well, maybe it would challenge them to have patience…). The people who offer me free dinners or ovens or Xboxes, they have all made sacrifices so that can happen. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, remember; someone always has to incur some kind of cost somewhere down the line, whatever that may be. I’m grateful for those people, as they model what love looks like, but the thing is, if I’m not getting into the same habits of sacrifice and service then, ultimately, that model of sacrifice is going to die out, and the day that happens will be a sad day.

I write this from a Starbucks where I came to reflect on today’s teaching – which was, incidentally, about “hearing God’s voice”. But when I sat down today and switched off all the things on my mind, what I realised my thoughts were brought back to, time and again, were those people who have modelled God’s character to me over the past few weeks, not to mention the past few years. Maybe you realised it and maybe not, but if you look at the big picture you can see a God who is writing His story in each of us; and the way in which He is at work in His people even now is a testament to the fact that He is as active and as relevant now as He was 4000 years ago.

This is what a community of people who are seeking God and seeking to serve looks like, and that’s an overwhelmingly positive thing, full of grace and creativity and selfless love. And it’s something that makes me want to live similarly, too. I am still positive about the church, in spite of all its flaws, its bitching, infighting and pettiness. I am still convinced that it is an incredibly positive force, something worth fighting for and worth sticking with, and I’m convinced of that because I’ve met the people that make it up.

I didn’t sit down to write a post that praised the church – actually, I sat down to write one about the innate cynicism of Christians, how sceptical we are of any acts of generosity, always worrying about motives and perception. But the thing is, while that’s true in so many ways, it also forgets the fact that if you spend any time at all around the church then you WILL meet amazing people, passionate and vibrant and visionary and, even if they don’t initially appear that way, exciting, too. That’s not always true, but in so many cases that’s plain to see…

And today, honestly, I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for people who model God’s love and tell of God’s goodness, whether they do it verbally or otherwise. I want to be a part of their community, and I want to contribute to it too.

I have an embarrassing confession to make, I think.

I love the church.

But I don’t love the church out of duty, or obligation, or because Christ told us to.

I love the church because it’s amazing, and because it keeps reflecting the glory of God, and if you’re a part of that then, screwed-up as you may be, you do too.

Thank you for that.

  1. Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

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