Could right thinking (and believing) not be enough?
Western Christianity has asserted that being a Christian means believing the right things and ensuring (via logical argument and rational persuasion) that others do too. However, we are becoming more aware that discipleship is not merely about endorsing a set of propositions or confessional statements.
We realize that our neighbors are not going to believe just because we provide logical evidence of the Bible’s relevance or can win arguments about the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Instead, they, like us, need to discover and experience the grace of God’s kingdom as it is embodied and expressed in our ordinary lives. The gospel truth after all, has always been a person: “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus said (John 14:6). As we begin to embrace a more holistic approach to discipleship, we also discover that the Spirit is already at work ahead of us in our neighbors and neighborhoods.
Perhaps in this way the Spirit is opening up a space for the church to discover (or recover) a more Christ-like posture in the midst of a changing, seeking world (Phil. 2). Perhaps, as Calvin University philosopher James K. A. Smith proposes, the church must “recognize that its primary responsibility is to live the story for the world, and therefore Christians have a responsibility to ‘act well’” (Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?, 79). So the question is, how do we learn to “act well” among and with our neighbors? How do we “live the story” as friends and fellow journeyers, appointed and sent to remain right where we are? Perhaps it begins with simply learning to love our neighbors, in other words by keeping the great commandment, in such a way that we bear witness to God’s loving reign. How many of your neighbors do you know? What would happen if we were more present, attentive, available, and responsive to those on our block? Perhaps we would discover God at work not only in us, but in the world he created and so loves.