the Alt L...

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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 is cherished.
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.

Only love.

When we fail to live as this alternative community, sin prevails.

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 true reality.

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 other people.

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: resurrection.

And that promise is truly what moves me.

[Adam Quine, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]


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