Clubs

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by Mike Hellum

There was recently an article about Augusta National Country Club coming under attack for its policy of men-only. They should’ve seen it coming. If the boys of Little Rascals took heat 80 years ago when they formed the “He-man Womun Haters” club then it was only a matter of time for Augusta. But I digress. I started thinking about the whole exclusivity thing and what it means to belong to a club. Clubs bring benefits, or nobody would join them, but they also limit your freedom. There are certain rules that come with belonging to any club. We expect that.

I suppose there are (at least) a couple of reasons why clubs have rules. First, when you belong to a club, your behavior affects other members. No doubt the dress code at Augusta prohibits golfing in a mankini. We’re all grateful for that one. Sports teams typically have curfews because athletes who have been out all night don’t perform at their highest level; the whole team suffers. Or if you’re out late and your name is Tiger, you’ve got even bigger problems. The list could go on, but you get the idea.

Second, as a member of that club you are also a representative of the club. Outsiders naturally form opinions based on what they know about that entity. I have a rather positive impression about motorcycle riders, because I know some that I like and I don’t know any Hell’s Angels. What about Christians? Somebody once said, “There are five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Christian; most will never read the first four.” If I’m all others know about Christianity, I hope they have a positive impression of it.

Like a club, Christianity has its own identification marks and behaviors. Jesus said so when he identified how people will recognize us (by our love — John 13:35). So what about when the church asks people to maintain certain standards of behavior? We’ve all heard people say, “They can’t tell me how to live!” If someone’s an outsider, the complaint is fair — I can’t expect them to live by the same code I do. G. K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried. ”If it is a higher standard — and it is — why would an outsider want to be bound by it? On the other hand, if one identifies themselves as an insider, a different dynamic is in play. The insiders are bound together in a common cause and a common identification for a common good. It’s what it means to be in community — thus, we lay down our individual interests for the benefit of everyone else. It’s what Christ modeled for us (see Phil. 2, esp. vv. 1-4), and commanded us to model to the world. And with this “club,” the cost of admission is an investment that reaps infinite dividends.

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It’s a lot like life

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by Mike Hellum

So I get the “Last Word” this week. The Last Word is the section at the end of the newsletter that links to this week’s column or blog. That means I have just a few sentences to catch your attention and motivate you to come back tomorrow and read the rest of what I wrote.

Come to think of it, the “Last Word” is a lot like life, and what we encounter every day in our attempts to be a witness to our faith. Just like I only have a few sentences to catch your attention here, I frequently have a short window to catch the attention of others, too. Because of the books I read, people are frequently curious. They may comment at times when there’s not much time for an extended conversation so I’m learning to have a short comment about what I’m reading that invites conversation. Or if the timing isn’t there for a conversation, at least I can get a bug in their head about what I believe, and why it should interest them.

1 Peter 3:15 says we should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. On top of that, Jesus says in Matt. 5:13 that we are the salt of the earth. One of the characteristics of salt is that it stings when rubbed into wound; I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus is driving at here. He probably meant it as a metaphor for a preservative and a seasoning agent. So not only should we be ready to give a reason for the hope within us, but it should be “salty” (i.e., interesting). Have you ever considered coming up with a brief testimony, an answer that makes people want to come back and know more?

When I read books like the one I just finished reading (one of the New Atheist’s diatribes against God), it stands out all the more clearly the hope we have in Christ. I invite you to come up with a brief and interesting personal testimony that you’re ready to give at all times. It not only makes your life easier, but you’re doing your neighbor a huge favor. Make it compelling, because it is. So did I catch your attention? If you actually read this far, I invite you to stand up and shout, “I believe in Bigfoot, UFO’s, and the reincarnation of Elvis Presley!” But you might want to have a brief and salty explanation of why you did that, too.

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