In 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus published his treatise, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, which presented a heliocentric (sun-centered) model of the universe. Prior to Copernicus, the dominant model for understanding the structure of the universe was the Ptolemaic model which positioned the earth at the center of the universe. As with all new theories, Copernicus faced fierce opposition not only from the emerging scientific community but also the religious community. It is not hard to understand why. Who wants to be displaced from the center of the universe? Certainly not me. Not us.
I wonder, sometimes, if we are in need of another Copernican Revolution in the church, especially in the United States. We’ve become very Ptolemaic in our sense of the faith. I am the center of God’s universe. I have a personal relationship with God. No one can call my faith journey into question. If it works for me (Christian community that is) I am all in. If not, well, there are other places to go, other experiences to placate my self-obsessed desires. Whether we say it or not, we like being the center of our universe.
It is no wonder that sort of individualized, self-focused faith has developed in our culture. We glamorize the rugged individualist. We honor the self-made man and woman. Listen to the public discourse on any number of societal issues and you will hear, “It’s my money. I earned it. I can do what I want with it. These are my guns. It’s my body. I can say what I want to others. I can do what I please.”
Is that really true? Can we really say those things as people who follow Jesus into Christian community?
Unfortunately, the Bill of Rights for some, has become a higher creed than the call to follow Jesus in community. When you simmer long enough in the cultural broth of individualism, ultimately it permeates the very pores of your being. You and I become the centers of the universe.
What would a Copernican Revolution of the soul look like? First. We would replace ourselves at the center of the universe with the Spirit empowered community that Jesus invites us to participate in. Don’t get me wrong. I think all the notions of self-care, self-love are critical for a faith journey. Jesus did say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are times and seasons when, for the sake of our bodies and minds and souls, we need to pull away, focus our attention toward renewed health and vitality. But, self-care and self-absorption are miles apart.
Second, in a Copernican Revolution of the soul, we would start to ask new questions:
-Rather than ask, “What works for me?” We ask, “What would benefit my neighbor?”
-Rather than ask, “What do I desire?” We ask, “What does God desire?”
-Rather than ask, “What will give me life?” We ask, “How can I be a life-giving influence in the lives of others?”
Over-time, as the shift happens in your soul and your community, what you discover is those questions merge. You begin to desire what God desires. Your life becomes more vital as you experience the vitality of others in community. What benefits the neighbor, benefits you.
It’s Monday. Start asking the new questions today. Notice what it does in your soul to imagine the world as God does, to imagine a community centered on the goodness and power of God’s Spirit. Peace. Kai