Monday, October 21, 2013

Living as a Barbarian

I first heard Erwin McManus at a Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. I think it was probably more than ten years ago. The talk was a last minute fill-in for a scheduled speaker who had gotten sick. Erwin spoke with no notes; it wasn't a talk he had planned to deliver. And he was brilliant. His talk: The Barbarian Way. That talk became the book.

And here's the point, best illustrated by a quote a friend posted on Facebook: "...(If) I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul." 

--Isaac Asimov

And yes, I have a lot of friends on Facebook who are not Christians; there are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and, I wouldn't be surprised is there wasn't, a Socialist. Bring it!

It would be amazing if the lives of Christians were more often lived so as to expose and trump the image of Christianity that those TV preachers display -- not talk but real lives that looked different. We are called to be barbarians but we have become so very civilized, and frankly it's not very attractive. We have become addicted to our words; less concerned with what our lives speak.

This is an excerpt for that book. I was so challenged and encouraged this summer by what Erwin had to say about the tribe of barbarians and, more importantly, about how that infects parenting. He parents unafraid and models that keen, unafraid embrace of the faith.

"This is the simplicity of the barbarian way. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are called to fight for the heart of your King. It is a life fueled by passion -- a passion for God and a passion for people. The psalmist tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord, and he will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). When Christianity becomes just another religion, it focuses on requirements. Just to keep people in line, we build our own Christian civilization and then demand that everyone who believes in Jesus become a good citizen. It's hard to imagine that Jesus would endure the agony of the Cross just to keep us in line. Jesus began a revolution to secure our freedom. The new covenant that he established puts its trust not in the law, but in the transforming power of God's Spirit living within us. The revolution of the human heart would fuel the life and vitality of this movement. We would delight in God, and He would give us the desires of our hearts. With our hearts burning for God, we would move forward with the freedom to pursue the passions burning within us." (pg. 6-7)

"Jesus was making clear (Matthew 11:16-19) that being a disciple was never intended to be the equivalent of being molded into a stereotype. Jesus and John were considered barbarians, even though they expressed themselves in different ways. But at the core they were the same....What was invisible to others was clear to them. Their lives could not be explained apart from God."(pg. 60)

"To have the Spirit of God dwelling within the heart of someone who chooses a domesticated faith is like having a tiger trapped within a cage. You are not intended to be a spiritual zoo where people can look at God in you from a safe distance. You are a jungle where the Spirit roams wild and free in your life. You are the recipient of the God who cannot be tamed and of a faith that must not be tamed.  You are no longer a prisoner of time and space, but a citizen of the kingdom of God -- a resident of the barbarian tribe. God is not a sedative that keeps you calm and under control by dulling your senses. He does quite the opposite. H awakens your spirit to be truly alive. This past year my daughter, Mariah, has been my travel companion on the barbarian way. She absolutely revels in the identity of being a barbarian. She gets it -- you are most fully alive when you are on an adventure with God." (pg. 66-67)

I really, REALLY, don't want to have a domesticated faith. And I don't want a life more defined by words then life lived well and with adventure.

A wooden plaque hangs above the staircase down to our basement. It says, Never ever give up on the beauty and mystery of the journey of faith. Amen.


  1. Great post Laura! This is my first exposure to the "barbarian way" as described by McManus and I agree more now than earlier in life - here's to the jungle!

  2. Thank you Jennifer. It really is quite a good book.