I love to worship. One of the things I missed the most in our years in China is opportunities for great worship experiences. (Especially coming from Wheaton, where we were so privileged to have been led by extraordinary Christian artists and gifted worship leaders in amazing worship experiences.) But recently (well, actually for the past several years), I’ve started having to change the lyrics to many common praise/worship songs in my mind as we sing them. This morning at church, for example, we sang these lyrics,
“Amazing love, how can it be? That you my King would die for me.”
“…altogether wonderful to me.”
“I have come to say that You’re my God.”
I just have a hard time singing these kinds of praises because my King didn’t die for ME, He died for US. He’s not wonderful to ME, He’s wonderful to US. And God is certainly not MY God, but OUR God. One of the gifts of having grown up in Chinese culture, and having lived in it for the past years, is that it has revealed the individualistic aspect of the Western version of Christianity. In the West, the gospel is that Jesus can become each individual person’s “personal” Savior, and that one’s faith is predominantly about one’s “personal” relationship with Christ. It seems to me our faith cannot become isolated to an individual faith, it simply isn’t practical. We all know we need community and each other to survive and thrive, why is it the faith community continues to encourage this individual focus?
I recently read in N.T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope”, and in it he suggests that just as the Israelites misunderstood God, thinking He wanted to save Israel for the sake of Israel, instead God meant to save Israel in order to save the Gentiles; in the same way, today’s Christians perhaps has misunderstood that Jesus isn’t saving individuals for the sake of each person, but through us to bring in His Kingdom here on earth.
I think for some people, it is mind-blowing to feel the love that the God of the Universe would care and love and save little tiny me. But isn’t it even more mind-blowing that He came to earth, died, and rose again, to save the entire world, and THEN, through us as a faith community, to participate in bringing in His Kingdom? I really don’t need Jesus to be my “personal” Savior, I need Him to be the Savior of all, and I need Him to use me in the church, to serve in His Kingdom.
So if I could just change those lyrics…