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Monday, 30 September 2013

How do you handle "edgy saints"?

A life in tradition
If you have spent your life in "traditional church" - no offense, just observation - you are probably subliminally programmed to reject edgy Christians. This, by the way, is not such a bad thing - provided you recognise it and learn to overcome its severe restrictions.

This is how traditional Christianity tends to think: "All Christians  - at least 'proper' ones - must fall within a certain framework, an envelope engineers might say, a box others would put it. If they have edges which stick outside the box, well, they're not in your team / group / denomination / etc."

The good side to this approach is that you're not likely to be led astray: you can spot a wacko seven holy miles away, and so you stay safe.

There are some advantages to this aspect of tradition.....

The down side
The down side is that you are likely to miss many, if not most of God's most precious - and beautiful - gems. God is Creative by his very nature, expressed in - for example - the 350,000 different kinds of just beetle he has made, the  every-one-different galaxies he has created and every single human being: no two are the same.

And it is no different in his spiritual creations. Every conversion story is different, every single journey to faith in Christ - and then to spiritual maturity - differs from every other one. Every church differs from every  other church. This is to be a source of rejoicing, not sorrow. It is the cults - and every cultist tendency - who want everyone to look the same.

The mysterious Sadhu Sundar Singh
In my sabbatical work I have come across a wonderful but mysterious Christian who worked in North India, by the name of Sundar Singh. He prefixed his name with "Sadhu" to more easily reach his kinsfolk who were seeking God.

Born in 1889, Sundar's mother was very "religious". He was fortunate to go to a Christian school where he heard the Gospel (clothed in a western garb, but sufficiently the Gospel to be understood by an Indian). 

At the death of his beloved mother, when he was 14, he took a turn for the rebellious worse and in deep despair cried out to heaven one day. If God was real would he reveal himself, or by morning Sundar would throw himself under the wheels of a train.

In his grace, Jesus revealed himself that night and from that moment all seeking came to an end (Of course, because Jesus is wisdom, not to mention righteousness, holiness and redemption). He was persecuted and forced to leave home, and so, as a single man, spent the rest of his life preaching the Gospel to villagers who had no other opportunity to hear it. He tried a western-style Bible College, but (not surprisingly) found it dull and irrelevant to his work in India and left. He spent a lot of time with God on his own, with Bible in hand, and took the dress of an Indian religious man (a Sadhu) so as to reach his own people with the Gospel.

His particular desire was to reach forbidden Tibet, and so over a dozen times he braved freezing winters and dangerous mountain passes to preach the Gospel there. No wonder he was nicknamed "apostle of the bleeding feet."

Over the course of a brief life (around 40 years) he received alot of opposition, but gladly took it for Christ's sake. He even came over to the West but was appalled at the spiritual poverty of our god-forsaken lands.

One day he went on a trip to Tibet and was never seen again.....

Why I like this guy
I like this saint because he was a one-off; a real man of God who was single-minded. When I was growing up my dad would show the film of his life to his Asian Christian friends to inspire them to do great things. You can watch "Journey to the Sky" here: 

Journey to The Sky (miss out the first bits and get to the man speaking bits, move the slider to 20 minutes)

A warning about edgy saints
Edgy saints have edges by definition, and so everything they say must be tested - as with the regular guys too - tested by Scripture. (If you want to know why edgy Christians are edgy it's because they have not spent enough time with other Christians - I mean meaningful submit-to-one-another-out-of-reverence-for-Christ time. They have been on their own too much, and so some of the rough edges that  naturally get rubbed off in fellowship with the church remain.)  Sundar is to be applauded for wearing the safron robe of a Sadhu and thus gaining a hearing no one else  would ever gain. He is to be applauded for his desire to know God more and to be dissatisfied with the spiritual status quo. He is to be applauded for his single-minded mission to the lost.

We don't quite to know what to think of the mysterious tales that follow in his wake. Some of them at least, we can be sure, are the product of over-zealous disciples of his. But camel's-hair clothes, honey and locusts shouldn't put us off any saint.

Whenever there is true wheat you're bound to find some chaff.

Don't let the chaff put you off, or you'll miss some of God's most beautiful gems.  

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