we need an alternative reality

When the Israelites first stepped out beyond the border of Egypt, they could taste freedom.  It is what they wanted, or so they thought.  Very quickly, they began to miss the everyday securities of Egypt.  Some became vocal, and soon a disgruntled group of pilgrims were pining for the peace of slavery that would soothe the chaos of wilderness.

Whether you lived in ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, or today in the Global West, a view of the ‘good life’ is sold.  Together with its unique promises of blessing, prosperity, salvation, security, and progress, this package is enticing in its benefits.  But, as we’ve considered in the New Exodus posts over the past 2 years, this ‘security-package’ isn’t “Gospel” peace and joy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad Nike’s make me run faster, Peet’s Coffee wakes me up, ATM’s feed me money when I need it, and my navigation system guides me through the maze of San Francisco.  But it’s important to keep our eyes open when it comes to how we define the ‘good life.’

NT Wright sees the New Exodus theme in Paul’s writing:

“When Paul speaks of God rescuing people from one kingdom and giving them another one, and of ‘redemption’ and ‘forgiveness’ as central themes of that rescue operation, he has the Exodus from Egypt in mind.  What God has done in Jesus and is now doing for them is the New Exodus, the great moment of setting the slaves free.  To become a Christian is to leave the ‘Egypt’ of sin and to travel gratefully to the promised inheritance.”

Paul uses the thought-world of both his Jewish history and Roman present in order to infuse a new understanding of freedom and joy.  But choosing this Exodus route means subverting, rejecting and resisting, to some extent, the false versions of salvation offered by the dominant ‘Empire’ of the day, the false versions of redemption, of freedom, of forgiveness, of blessing, of security.  In our contemporary time, this is the trick – figuring out what this subverting, rejecting, and resisting looks like.  As I’ve said before, you can take Israel out of Egypt, but it’s difficult to take the ‘Egypt’ out of Israel.  Our habits and patterns, informed by the reality and promises of the ‘good life’ according to everything from Thomas Jefferson to Tommy Hilfiger, are deeply ingrained.  Sometimes, it’s hard to think that there is a difference.

In coming posts, we’ll animate this further, contending that the Gospel of Jesus offers an alternative reality that is more compelling, and offers a better freedom, than the false securities and cheap freedoms of ‘Egypt’.  Until then, consider this:

To what extent is your definition of freedom informed by the supposed ‘right’ to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (as defined during the Enlightenment), versus the ‘privilege’ of participating in the cruciform life of suffering servanthood?

What are the habits and practices of your ‘Egypt’ which capture your attention daily?  If you lost these, how would you feel?  To what extent has your life become dependent on these securities?

3 comments

  1. Great post Chuck. I think that so many people are misguided and are looking to return to a mythical golden age in America’s history where everything was alright. They are grasping on to a false hope and one that will never give them true freedom. The freedom found in America is merely a shadow at best of the freedom found in Christ. I was struck by these words from Isaiah this morning: (Isaiah 8)
    “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy;
    do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.
    13 The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
    he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread,
    14 and he will be a sanctuary.

    People are afraid of the wrong things, because those things threaten their false security. Jon Stewart comes closer to the truth “I’m not afraid of Muslims/Tea Partiers/Socialists/Immigrants/Gun Owners/ Gays but I’m a little afraid of spiders.”

  2. Good stuff Chuck. 🙂

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this American Dream stuff lately. I re-read “The Great Gatsby”, which wrestles with what the American Dream means; and though it was written in the 1920’s, is very relevant to today. And for those who are musically inclined, the new album “The Suburbs” by the Arcade Fire is a great meditation on the longings and disappointments that go along with living in the modern suburban sprawl that our pursuit of the American Dream has created.

  3. Here’s a quote from pitchfork.com’s review of the Arcade Fire album:
    “it’s a sad reminder that giving up your dreams for a reliable job that pays your way and corrodes your soul isn’t even a reliable option anymore. Soul-sucking work was at least once a dependably secure and profitable enterprise. Now what do we do?”

    Sounds like the Egypt that many of us settle for is now no longer looking quite so appealing…

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