Despite being born in 1985, if I am honest, I am a
child of the 90s.
You can see this played out in a couple different
areas in my life, some twenty years later.
Musically, I still prefer the alternative melodies
of bands like the Wallflowers and the Counting Crows
to Justin Bieber and Toby Keith.
My style of dress definitely embodies the
alternative grunge-look made famous in the 90s.
Okay, maybe I don’t wear flannel shirts two sizes
too big, like the musical legend, Kurt Cobain, but
you won’t find me in a pair of skinny jeans or
pastel polo shirts with my collar popped.
I still prefer “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to “How
I Met your Mother,” and Michael Jordan’s Chicago
Bulls will forever be the greatest dynasty of all
time. (Yes, even over the G.O.A.T, Tom Brady.)
Yet, over the last few years, I’ve noticed how this
‘alternative’ lifestyle has penetrated deeper than
my entertainment and fashion choices.
It has shaped my understanding of my faith.
Let me put it as plainly as I can and proclaim it as
boldly as I am able: God in Christ, by the Holy
Spirit, has called us—as the church—to provide an
alternative way of life in the world.
We must work at all times and in all places to
exclude sin and establish God’s reign.
To establish God’s reign and to embody the prayer we
pray every Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer means to
stand in mutual relationship with God. Culture is
built on movements toward empire, toward equating
success with rugged individualism, and toward a
homogenous way of life. Through scripture, which is
the story of God, we yet see that God’s people stand
in direct conflict with this system of being (and
culture). This is the radical and alternative
meaning we are supposed to get when we read the word
“world” in the New Testament. Friends, human systems
are the ways we structure our reality, and they are
almost always going to be diametrically opposed to
the mystery of God—to the Trinity.
Our systems say racism is okay. God says diversity
Our systems say sexism is okay. God says “blessed
are you among women.”
Our systems say you must check one of two boxes. God
says you are beloved just as you are.
After all, Jesus did say something like, "whoever
wishes to become great among you must be your
servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you
must be slave of all."
At Christ's table, there is no room for hate.
When we fail to live as this alternative community,
Again, to put it a bit more plainly: sin is every
refusal to move in the direction of our deepest
identity as love.
No matter how many times you have heard me say this
or have read my words, I will never stop enjoying
any moment to remind us of these radical truths:
Love is our destiny. Love is our name. Love is our
Love is the alternative to how culture often
encourages us to exist. When we want to grasp for
power via our salary or job title, God tells us true
power comes when we embrace humility and patience.
One system says peace will never be achieved. But
God says it can and will be if we but commit
ourselves truly to become and to be the alternative
community we have been gifted to be.
Let’s be honest; these are grim times for our
country, during which the God of our fondest dreams
seems nowhere to be found. Yet, below the darkness
of despair and underneath the suspicion of doubt,
there is still reason to hope. One preacher says
this place of disillusionment isn’t so bad. After
all, “Disillusionment is the loss of illusion—about
ourselves, about the world, about God—and while it
is almost always painful, it is not a bad thing to
lose the lies we have mistaken for the truth.”
God does not conform to our expectations. Rather,
God invites us into God’s power, which is not
controlling but is redeeming. It is a power best
felt when we are awakened to the capacity to love
This is what it means to be an alternative people—to
embody an alternative faith. Jesus teaches that a
person can neither move inward nor find peace with
any depth unless and until the person diminishes in
service to others. Our ability to love and serve
depends upon our willingness to think less of our
self-estimation and the estimation of others, and
instead, rely on the deep wellspring of God’s life
within us—each of us and all of us.
To live the alternative lifestyle of God is a daily
choice. On most days, my efforts flop, kind of like
the band, Hanson. But thanks be to God that when and
where I see failure, God sees an alternative action:
And that promise is truly what moves me.
[Adam Quine, pastor of First Presbyterian Church