Eugene Peterson writes, “For forty years my theologian of choice as a conversation partner in discerning the ways appropriate to following the way of Jesus has been Stanley Hauerwas.” Perhaps the following gives us some insight as to why. When asked in an interview, “As a Christian…how do we get anything done in society?” Hauerwas replied, “Why do you think that your first task as a Christian is to make society work?” I personally read that line several years ago, and it has haunted me ever since.
Paul primary concern in today’s reading is certainly not to “make society work”. His first concern was to be faithful to Jesus Christ. This meant boldly preaching in public about what God had done in Christ. It also resulted in a riot.
To the degree that society has institutionalized things which run counter to the teaching of Jesus that we are to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, we cannot “reinforce the powers that Christ defeated” (I am again quoting Hauerwas).
What does that mean for us? It’s something worth giving considerable prayerful reflection. As but one example, does it have implications for the way we consume—both in the sheer quantity of our consumption but also the means and practices that support such consumption? As you might guess, I’d suggest it does.
But maybe even more basically, are there ways we are choosing simply to go with the flow, keep the peace, and promote the status quo rather than taking the risk of telling other people about Jesus? To be sure, the example of Paul (and of Jesus before him) is not an easy one to follow; but follow it we must if God is really to be given first place in our lives.