The Holy Trinity of Suburban Life

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You can’t look at the church, then look at Jesus, then look again at the church and not be deeply disturbed.

The first chapter of Hebrews says Jesus is the ‘exact representation of God’ in this world, and I would say its only reasonable to infer that we free woman s rage a download man apart a online

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then are supposed to be exact representations of him as we live in our communities.

But the Jesus of the Bible often seems so different to the Jesus of suburbia. So different that its frightening. I don’t even know where to start some days. When the best known ‘evangelical’ in the USA is Ned Flanders I think it says something of how far we have strayed.

If we look around we’d see that the holy trinity of suburban life is career, house and family and Jesus is often invited to mold his call on our lives around those 3 priorities. These markers are set down before anything else and he can fit around them.

To be fair, its not to say those values are all bad – they aren’t – they are good things – but sometimes – often – Jesus calls us to live in a way that does not fit with those societal norms. In fact sometimes Jesus’ way just seems downright ludicrous and absurd, but often that’s the way of faith.

When we allow ourselves to be controlled by our western values, the Jesus of scripture gets syncretised with the western worldview and he simply becomes one of us. And as he does so he ceases to challenge and confront the issues in our lives that are not in conformity to his way. We get blinded to the Jesus of the gospels who actually calls us to live differently and we co-opt him to our way of life.

I actually think most of us want to follow the Jesus who calls us to a life that is more vigorous and more challenging but we have bought so deeply into this world’s system that now we struggle to extricate ourselves.

I know I long for friends and fellow travelers who will talk with me and challenge me to be continually re-shaping my life so that it looks more like that of Jesus, but those who can are rare. And often those who can are so prickly that they are hard to hear anyway.

I get to talk to a bunch of people about this on Sunday, but I find myself so deeply embedded in the system that I am not sure I have much integrity.meerkats the divx movie online

27 thoughts on “The Holy Trinity of Suburban Life

  1. Integrity shmegrity. A church meeting is Sinners Anonymous remember – where better to discuss the log in our eye? Church is a great community to start exploring ways out of this system too!

  2. But here’s my struggle:

    Jesus lived at a time where faith was a matter of course. Admittedly, the Jews had a few issues as a group (particularly some of the faith-leaders!!), but there had been an ongoing discussion for a couple of thousand years within that people group that encompassed, encouraged and lifted high a relationship with the Living God.

    Now we look at the last 35yrs or thereabouts…

    Christians (individuals and groups) haven’t known whether to try and:

    1. be ‘themselves’ loudly in the world to try and replicate the time of Jesus,

    2. cloister themselves away to create their own perfect harmony away from the noise of a hellish world, or

    3. just bumble along being a little bit salty, and a little bit light, but not so much that they will cop a smack-down for it.

    And I arrive at a juncture where I feel totally confused as to the best way to exercise the principal of Loving God with everything and Loving my Neighbour to bits.

    Sometimes I think my confusion stops me from being effective.

    Other times, I think my confusion stops me from doing more harm!! 🙂

    Fortunately, I don’t hate being confused! But that’s where I (often) remain.

  3. Thanks again- this has kicked something that I have been thinking and haven’t been able to form properly. I am deeply compromised by this as well (and in the UK, ministers generally do not own property…so when someone says re: buying stuff, affording a holiday/car or extending their mansion ‘you know what it is like!’ I don’t- but boy do I covet it).

    I live in the richest village in the North of Britain in terms of millionaires/head of population (at least before the slump) so this is a live question for me. I am not sure either of the churches in this village are ideal in terms of discipleship/christian formation, but in the meantime I do get hacked off when the tacit reason for backing off any involvement is…. ‘well we lead such busy lives’.

    Can I print this in my newsletter sometime? My gut is to include ‘pissed off’ as I think that captures it….my Brit sensitivity means I may not: there could be letters to ‘The Times’ (!).

    Thanks again for provoking me.

  4. I love my church and the difference we are making in the community. Lately I have been amazed at the stories of redemption, salvation and rebirth of some churches I thought were dead…. I reckon some of you guys need to get out more! 🙂

    One church in particular was one which has been conflict strewn for many years, but has now got its act together and is doing some wonderfully redemptive things in its community.

  5. Hi Graham – go for it mate – feel free to use as you like.

    Mark – I don’t doubt there are good things happening in different places, but I still see the grip of these things shaping our lives much more than I would like. You’re not telling me this is not an issue are you?

  6. I wonder if sometimes we see what we are feeling….maybe I am feeling great at the moment!

    There has always been crap in the church, because the church has people in it. I have had my fair share of conflict and rubbish to deal with. But I think it is a good idea to choose to focus on what Jesus is doing through His body….and there are some amazing things happening if you look for them.

    Here is my challenge Andrew…should you choose to accept….make the next five posts of yours about the church, positive! 🙂

  7. Mark, its not my point that there aren’t good things happening if you look.

    Right now there is actually some really good stuff going on around me – but its not for blogging about.

    I reckon this is one of the most potent challenges for us as the western church and is a major reason why so much of western christianity is screwed.

    I think we kid ourselves if we don’t think we are badly compromised and in big trouble.

    I realise that’s not a ‘yeeha’ statement, but I think its a true one.

    I don’t accept your challenge – (although I don’t doubt I could do it )- because I write about what empassions me and right now (and for the last few years) this issue has disturbed me and I see us still struggling to make headway.

    I’m not sure why you object to what I have written?

    Your comments seem more about ‘seeing the good’ and not talking about the bad.

    I have chosen to focus on one of our struggles, but you haven’t convinced me yet that this isn’t a primary issue for western faith 🙂

  8. I know you could list five things, but you dont have to do what I say…. 🙂

    I dont happen to think the church as I am experiencing it being expressed is that far different to the example Jesus set….I suppose that is an indication of how I am feeling blessed at the moment.

    I take your point that Jesus lived a radically different life to us… but then, I feel the values, deeds and attitudes we are expressing are radically different to much of the culture around us.

  9. Hi Hamo, good post as usual.

    I would question your assertion that all these things are ‘good’ though…

    career: why is it good to have a career? Yes there is dignity in work, but careers are just ways of pigeon holing people, effectively objectifying them as a ‘plumber’, ‘policeman’ or whatever. One could say that careers make us dependant upon ourselves and the systems we have set up to alienate ourselves from the world around us…

    home ownership: how is this good? It just means that we are saying ‘this is mine… not yours’. I know this is a huge minefield, but lets ask the question, why is it good to own a home? The only benefits I can see are (potentially) material.

    family: this is a tricky one, and dont get me wrong on this, but we’ve kind of privatised the family, and turned it into an exclusive club, rather than an inclusive gathering. So an old person I am not related to, I dont have to care for (unless I’m paid to) – children likewise…

    Just wanted to throw those thoughts into the pot. Feel free to throw them back out 😉

  10. Hamo,

    Some fellow travelers that would help us challenge the norms of suburbia would be very helpful. I haven’t found many, except a few online (which is helpful to a point). I’ve been thinking about how we can restate some of Jesus’ values in ways that make it clear how differently we can/should live if we’re really following Him.

  11. I think Jesus was right when he called us to leave our family in order to follow him. These things are not good. There is NO WAY that you can have these three things and follow Jesus at the same time. Every one of these three things requires huge amount of time, effort, and heart in order to achieve or gain.

    Christians who say that Jesus is the center and we must glorify Jesus through our homeownership, through our love for our family, through our career are just kidding themselves. They are rationalizing.

  12. Great post Hamo!!!

    I reckon the Church Ephesus described in Revelation, a hard working church indeed – thought they were impacting their community mightily, they had turned that city into incredible uproar – but the eyes of Christ discover what appears to be full on might not be so …

  13. What a great post and thanks for your honesty at the end! I recommend Re-Jesus to you by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch which is right along the same line-you’ll devour every page.

    My family left our comfortable life to start a new one overseas following Christ, but to be honest I have fought for several years with that holy trinity of suburbia mentality. Even though we put ourselves right in the middle of a challenging community where Jesus would likely find himself in these modern times, the mental struggle is constant to adopt this new, more Jesus way of life. Coming from the suburbs, it feels so unnatural and often so gritty to live closer to Christ’s real way of living. I don’t know if Jesus way will ever feel “normal”, but I am learning that when I have this internal struggle wanting to go back to my “holy trinity” lifestyle, then this is exactly where I should be.

  14. Hamo,

    This post is right on. It nails what I feel at this moment in time. Which is a complete disconnect between the biblical Jesus and the church Jesus. They are two differnt people.

    I find posts like this encouraging. As more of us explore finding the biblical Jesus, we encounter just how trapped in the “system” we have been.

  15. Daniel – more info please. My 1st response is to remark that you are full of what I just trod in, but only because of the struggles I outlined earlier.

    Something for you to press back into – my wife & I bought a house, cos rentals are not long term, and we desired long-term relationships in our own piece of geography. Also – it’s nice not to be propping up someone elses superannuation!!

    Career – I became a social worker and an pursuing a career in that kind of line (sort of). It provides me an opportunity to get into leadership (either positional or operational) positisions, which gives me a great opportunity to express social work values as Jesus 1st showed me.

    My kids are Christians. So, putting time into my kids is like putting discipleship time into new converts. By building strong relationships with them I can:

    1. give them a Godly picture of fatherhood, with my own human shortcomings accepted.

    2. ensure that they grow into emotionally & spiritual health, so they are a blessing to ‘the church’ and to others.

    3. By being around them, I can model effective gift-utilisation, and encourage them to do the same.

    I’m not good at renting and moving from town to town, as the market would require me.

    I need ot earn at least an average wage (it’s pretty average when you work in humanities!!) because I suck at DIY and home-reno/car mainanance. I have to actually pay other people to do stuff for me.

    However – the PURSUIT of these things in an of themselves for their own glory? Yes – we share a struggle with where that happens; both in and out of the church. But the utilisation of these things? Doesn’t seem to be a problem.

    Justification? I dunno Dan – what do you call it when the structures have a story?

  16. I’m with Toddy here Daniel.

    As much as these things stretch us I cant see how you can take such a black and white pos. Do you live in the same world I do?! 🙂

    I would like to hear what you propose as we need to live in this world and somehow function within it. What is your alternative?


    For some of us it is actually cheaper for us to buy a house than rent.

    No family? A tad difficult for 99% of people

    And career and vocation get mixed up often – one does not equal the other IMHO

    Make sense?

  17. THEN all peoples of the earth shall SEE that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. Deuteronony 28:10 [see vs 1 – 14 also]

  18. Interesting post as always Hamo! Love it!

    To me what’s becoming more and more apparent is that the word “career” is dying. Most 20 somethings aren’t interested in careers, they’re interested in experiences. They’re not out there to become salesmen, teachers, etc. They’re there to get what they need to accomplish their goals. If they need $20K to travel, they’ll find whatever needs to be done to get $20K. They may go to Uni to become a teacher, but less of them are actually imagining themselves only teaching for the rest of their lives. Teaching will simply be an era.

    I think this thinking challenges the concept that careers are part of the trinity of surbubia. It’s not careers as much as financial security in my view.

    In regard to being controlled by Western values…what are these values? Consumerism? The fast growing consumer body in the world are Eastern countries with Eastern mindsets. Sure they’ve been invaded a bit by the west…but their ideals are still strong. The last continent that seemingly maintains the community/consumerless mindest is Africa. The continent that ‘boasts’ a history of bad leaders whose general theme is greediness and hoarding of wealth.

    There are few places were westernism hasn’t invaded or tainted. At some point we’ll need to move away from knocking it back and figure out how we can make this honour Christ. In the last few months Western thinking has had a huge shift which we might only appreciate in 50years time. It’s gone from “grow grow grow” to “just don’t lose ground.” I think we’re not too far away from the realisation that for us as a global community to succeed, everyone’s gotta be looked after and then the much-talked about eastern mindset may begin to kick in. Change is in the air!

  19. Steve – is there a war brewing against the Ammonites that someone forgot to tell me about?

    I had a read of Deut 27 (where the laws are spelled out by Moses & the Levites), and it’s all about building alters on the other side of the Jordan, no secret statues, no sex with animals or mother in laws, kills people for money etc… not much about houses, careers or family (except the ‘no sex with your mother in law’ bit).

    I think you’ll find Zephaniah 4:25-28a to be just as relevant…

  20. Hey Hamo, thanks for your reply to my comment.

    For sure I am not saying we should never buy a house, have a family, have a career…

    I am just challenging the generally held position, and one you reiterated in the post, that these things are naturally good.

    I have a family, although no career any more, and a rented flat, and I dont see this as a black and white issue.

    But to say that these three things are good in and of themselves isnt right either, for some of the reasons I expressed, and doubtless others I havent thought of.

    Perhaps I’m just being pedantic in my language, but if we start saying things are good, when they are at the very least open for debate, then we’re in difficult territory. Bless you mate, S.

  21. I have enjoyed reading through this post and the comments and just wanted to say that I really appreciated what you had to say Simon Cross. Thanks!

  22. This issue is really important, and I’m not sure how much we’ve achieved in regards to sifting through to an answer… I feel like a few of us have pegged our opinions to the board, but not much more.

    Is there something constructive we can take from this discussion? (I’ll acknowledge that this may appear picky and petulant!)

    Houses, careers, families… good? Not?

    Biblical? Unbiblical? abiblical?

    This is the kind of stuff that has divided denominations and caused church splits (the aquisition/use of money), so it’s worth either saying that one way or the other is right, or it doesn’t really matter, so long as God is at the centre of your pursuit.

    What is God telling us about this stuff via scripture, prayer, experience…

    Is God the source of wealth and success, that we might in turn bless others?

    Or is God the start of financial pain, that we might depend on Him for our very daily bread?

    I grew up with middle class experiences, then spent a bunch of years on the bottom of the financial scrapheap, and am now sitting at about the lower-middle income bracket again.

    Is God in all income brackets? Or one in particular?

    I feel like I know my own mind on the matter, but it’s with very little input, so I reiterate my earlier confusion, and ask for it to be sensibly torn apart.

  23. there is an ascetic purity in ‘no-career-no-property-no-family’ which has become fashionable in christian spirituality in a number of places and eras over the centuries. It is alluring to think that we could so leave it all behind and just pursue Jesus. But I can’t help thinking that some of the best examples of this kind of value system (monks/religious orders etc) didn’t abandon work, property or commitment to community life (sister and brothers in the order) but in fact embraced it in an even more intense but communally shaped way. Perhaps it is the individualistic pursuit if any of these that runs against the fundamental ethics of the way of Jesus – love God/love neighbour.

  24. I wish you would’ve taken up Mark’s challenge Hamo. As far as I know, you own two homes, have a family, and have been involved in paid ministry for years. If these things are so anti-Christ, then why do you still have them? I’m not saying you should, but shouldn’t your actions match your teachings? Can one live in a suburb and follow Christ?

  25. Lance – why do you wish I had taken up Mark’s challenge?

    I think if you read my whole post – esp the final paragraph you will see that I struggle with these questions just like everyone else.

    “Can one live in a suburb and follow Christ?”Is this a serious question Lance?

    Lance – why do you seem to write so many comments on here that are prickly?

    Is there something we need to talk about?

    BTW – we have a $170K mortgage on one house in a pretty ordinary suburb

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