I grew up in Southern Baptist congregations. By the time I left high school I knew the four steps to salvation and the meaning of Jesus’ sacrificial death as a substitutionary atonement for my sins. I could articulate this understanding of salvation in clear and simple terms. Within the metanarrative of evangelical Christianity it made perfect sense and was logically coherent.
Life is Good. T-shirts broadcasting this message are available in stores everywhere in sizes for both adults and kids. I see these shirts in airports across the country. I wonder if airports are capitalizing on the hope that people who are about to be set free from regular responsibilities and stresses are inclined to join a Life Is Good club—or perhaps airports are capitalizing on those travelers whose impulse control is poor because they’re excited about getting home to visit loved ones.
What does God require of us? We tend to like Jesus’ most famous answer, what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed: to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But what about the answer we find in the holiness code of Leviticus and the Sermon on the Mount? Are we really ready to sign up for a program of holiness and perfection? Sure, it’s simple and to the point. But what chance do we have of living up to these radical standards?
The prophet Isaiah lays out what God wants of the creatures made in God's own image. God does not want self-deprivation. God does not want self-flagellation. God does not want us to suffer for the sake of suffering. God created us in love and wants us to live life to the fullest, knowing joy and communion and fulfillment.
My college years resonated with Micah’s challenge to Judaean society to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” I heard this challenge on the lips of Martin Luther King Jr. and William Sloane Coffin, heroes of my adolescence. But the pinnacle of its power for me came in Jimmy Carter’s 1977 inaugural address: