Looking for holiday reading? Recently a friend lent me a copy of Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution, first published in 2006 but which has now been updated and republished. Good move! This is well worth reading if you are prepared to be challenged about how radical you are in your walk with God.
Off to India
Shane Colborne is no ‘ordinary’ Christian (I wonder what one would look like?). But he does believe that living out the Christian life should be challenging and radical. Having been challenged by some of his college friends who used their spare time visiting people who were homeless in the city he set out to start his exploration of radical Christianity with a visit to Mother Theresa in Calcutta. Living and working among those who were dying on the streets, some having leprosy, who had been taken to the Home for the Destitute and Dying he began to see what it was like to be seen by society as an ‘outcast’.
Returning to USA he spent a year in Willow Creek during which he intentionally searched out the poor in Chicago. This gave him the opportunity to contrast the lives of the comfortable rich (relatively speaking) with those of the poor, and also to study some theology around poverty.
At the end of the year Shane, with friends, started to live in community as a way of exploring ‘living as an ordinary radical’. This came to be called the Simple Way. It included not only sharing amongst themselves but also interacting intentionally with those who have often been rejected by society such as those living on the streets or under the influence of life-controlling substances. They also visited and befriended people in prison, some on death row. This brought them into the sphere of advocacy where they often successfully spoke up those who could not speak up for themselves.
Jesus was homeless
Throughout the book Shane roots his reasoning and actions in scripture. He constantly refers to Jesus’ own lifestyle and points out that he, too, was often homeless, relying on the love and good will of others.
9/11 had a big impact on him, particularly meeting some who lost friends and family. This in part led him to determine to go to Iraq. There he encountered a different expression of Christianity, one that showed forgiveness rather than the belligerence of many Christians in the United States who supported the ‘war against terrorism’. He was challenged by local believers who believed ‘if you pick up the sword you die by the sword’ – and then said they would pray for the church in the US to be the church.
In his final chapter ‘Crazy but not alone’ Shane reflects on whether the experiment he and his friends have undertaken to live in a radical way is crazy or whether the craziness is in fact among those (us?) who live around them. You will have to read this book to find his conclusion. But in response to a skeptic asking ‘What makes you actually think you can change the world?’ one of his friends replied ‘Sir, if you will take a closer look at history you will see … that’s the only way it has ever been done’.
I commend this book to you. The author has an engaging way of writing often including amusing quips and ‘throw-aways’ (sometimes with a few barbs) that show he is very human and loves life in the midst of often difficult and dangerous circumstances. You will enjoy it and have reason to reflect on your own lifestyle.
Since many will shortly be going on holiday/vacation I am taking a few weeks off from these posts. Have a relaxing and refreshing time and see you in the autumn/fall!