Monthly Archives: October 2013

Isolationism Revisited


I had a very interesting experience a couple weeks ago. In desperate need of a haircut, I decided to try out a new barber in town. I’d seen his business card and website and his tagline had intrigued me: “Changing the world one haircut at a time.” I was curious what that meant, and how haircuts might be able to change the world. I got my answer!

During the course of my hour in the barber’s chair, I got an earful as “Bowtie” passionately talked about all that was wrong with our nation, its politics, its direction, its finances. Three other customers came in and sat down during that hour, readily engaging in a loud and sometimes contentious discussion. It was humorous, intriguing, and at times even educational – and not at all for the faint of heart or delicate of disposition! I left with conflicting feelings: that I needed to wash out my ears, and that Jesus – or at least Paul – would probably get their haircuts there just for the conversation!

What I learned was that Bowtie had two underlying philosophies that would “change the world”: first, get money out of politics; the president, congresspersons, and even local politicians ought to serve out of the goodness of their hearts, not for pay. Second, the US should get out of every other country and focus instead on our own interests.

I’ve heard the arguments before. The first fails to recognize that all humans are “desperately sick” (according to Jeremiah 17:9). The second is, frankly, naïve. From the very beginning, humankind was made for community, and I believe Scripture shows that that extends to the community of nations. Isolationism has never been good politics.

Calls for an American isolationism may have had their impact in the past, but they have been effectively silenced by the unavoidable fact of a world community that is linked by intricate economic ties, instant communication, complex and speedy transportation systems and the fear of nuclear destruction. (Reid, Daniel G. et al. Dictionary of Christianity in America 1990)

Isolationism has never been good discipleship, either. Yet I often hear calls for what amounts to a Christian isolationism. I hear questions like, “why are we going to Ethiopia or Mexico or India when there are so many needs here at home?” They’re not bad questions; they deserve thoughtful consideration. The simplest answer is this: “We go because we are called – to make disciples of all peoples, to be witnesses of Jesus Christ here, near, and far.

So now I have a question for you: As you are going – to work, to school, to the gym, on vacation – how are you “making disciples” of the people you come into contact with?

The Continuing Adventure


You sit down and turn on the TV, ready to watch your show. Amidst the plethora of true junk that’s out there, this is one of the good ones, with believable characters, compelling plots, life-like stories. As you watch, you’re pulled into the action and the drama; you feel the hurt and the joy, cringe when the music suddenly changes to a foreboding theme. The story unfolds and you’re no longer aware that you’re not part of it yourself. The suspense grips you and then…

To Be Continued….

Don’t you hate that? Right at the best part, the screen goes black and those three dreaded words appear, begging you to wait another week before finding resolution.

That’s how the gospels end, too. The first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell the story of Jesus’ life on earth. They build to a climax with his arrest and crucifixion, reach a dramatic resolution in his resurrection, and end with, “Now, go…” (Matthew 28:16-20). And we’re left wondering, “what happens next?” To Be Continued….

The book of Acts continues the story but that, too, ends with To Be Continued…. And that’s where we come in, where you come in. We are the continuation of the story. We are the next episode.

In The Hobbit, the introduction to J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings trilogy, the great grey wizard Gandalf invites the very comfortable and predictable hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, to join an adventure:

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

“I should think so—in these parts!” said our Mr. Baggins. “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”

But the whole book “is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected.”

Jesus invites us to join him on an adventure; indeed, to write—and participate in—the next episode. What will your adventure look like?