application or implication?

I’ve been involved in various discussions over the years, and increasingly now as a pastor, over defining faithful Christian living in the 21st century. Well, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated by a constant need – no, let's say demand – for application. I’m frustrated because in a culture dominated by consumption and immediate gratification, any provision of simple application for Christian living too easily glosses over why we do what we do.

And so people are eager to be told how theology applies to their context or what strategies they can employ to be more faithful Christians. And pastors and leaders perpetuate the situation, supplying said strategies and applications meeting peoples need to have everything laid out nicely. One only has to browse the Christian living section of Amazon to realize how widespread – and profitable – the consumption of application has become. Just this morning, for example, I read how certain pastors are promoting “strategic consumerism” as a way to combat problems associated with our consumeristic culture. Are you serious!?! Somehow I think we need a little more than strategy to combat consumerism. Faithfulness isn’t a strategy, particularly in the face of the economic brokenness we are all culpable of in North America.

Does this mean application and strategies are wrong? Absolutely not! I just think strategies need to be accompanied with life transformation – both individually and corporately. A transformation, additionally, that relates to my specific situation and the issues I face. Someone in Grand Rapids doesn’t know what issues Christians are facing in Port Coquitlam, so why would I want them telling me how to live? But our demand for application forces them to answer questions they never should have to answer.

At the study conference I recently attended, a fellow attendee made an observation that has resonated with me. Instead of looking for applications, he suggested we should be looking for implications. Returning to consumerism, instead of being given a strategy for Christian consumption, Christians need to hear how and why we should be thankful and content with “our daily bread” as Jesus taught. As we reflect on Jesus’ teachings, the implications of what he said will invariably lead to transformation of how we live. Application isn’t absent. Rather, application develops out of our wrestling with the implications of being a follower of Jesus in our specific contexts. This will be different for me. Different for you. Different for the CEO of a major corporation. Different for the roofer in Abbotsford. Quite simply, application isn’t given to us. Application is discovered.

Demanding easy applications attempts to “do” Christianity without having our lives transformed by the implications of following Jesus in our everyday lives. As difficult as it may be, I’d much rather explore the depth of implications than the emptiness of generic applications.

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