From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a October 2006 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

Dear Friends of Renovaré,

I have A Dream… and a Hope

I dream of a day when spiritual formation has so saturated all who follow hard after Jesus that they become known to all as experts in how to live well.

  • How to love a spouse well.
  • How to raise children well.
  • How to study well.
  • How to face adversity well.
  • How to run businesses and financial institutions well.
  • How to form community life well.
  • How to reach out to those on the margins well.
  • How to die well.

I am thinking of ordinary folk who are not known for particular customs or manner of dress or rituals, but for a particular kind of life. A life that works … and works well. They are of all races and classes and kinds. They are in the churches and they are outside of the churches, but they all are the Church, the people of God. Some self-identify as followers of Jesus; others, because of cultural or racial or family barriers, do not come out so publicly, but they follow hard after Jesus nonetheless. Some are followers of the Way” without fully knowing it, for the Light of Jesus does indeed shine into the darkness and does indeed enlighten every person coming into the world (John 1:5 – 9). This is the saving Light of Jesus Christ, and those who turn and walk in the Light are given more Light and finally come to see that it is the Jesus Way and the Jesus Truth and the Jesus Life in which they are living.

While denominational structures continue, their distinctions begin to blur and fade as the issue of living well takes center stage. Indeed, the various denominations themselves begin sharing their great treasures into life in such a way that other groups take on these vital convictions as their own.

From the Methodists we learn profound lessons about social holiness.” From the Baptists we learn more fully about the stabilizing power of soul competency.” From the Quakers we begin stepping into simplicity of life. From the Roman Catholics we grow in our appreciation of a consistent culture of life.” From the Pentecostals we experience the empowering of the Holy Spirit for all of life’s vicissitudes. From the Mennonites we grow in our ability to be loving witnesses for peace in a war torn world. From the Reformed we broaden in our understanding of our cultural mandate” to the world. And more. These treasures of faith intertwine with one another to give us a wiser, fuller way of living.

Spiritual formation has so deepened in these folk that they are known for scrupulous honesty. Simply put, their word is as good as their bond. Speaking the truth is as natural to them as growing apples is to the apple tree. They are sought out in business circles because lying and deceiving and cheating is simply not known among them. They can be trusted to do what is right. Always. It is something that can be depended upon. Those in science seek these folk out since it is known that they will not cut corners in research methodology or embellish research findings.

The religious leaders of those who follow hard after Jesus are themselves much sought after because they have built a history of standing up for all people of all persuasions: Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, agnostics, atheists even. Having learned to live well these folk are pursued as teachers and nursery care workers because they so manifestly and indiscriminately love children. They are asked to be leaders in social service agencies because their reputation for administering justice for all people alike is legendary.

Community leaders begin to think of these followers of Jesus less and less as simply another cultural group with their own set of distinctive rituals just like any other group.” Instead they begin to think of them as the people who are genuinely good at living. The characteristics are hard to put into words exactly. It is their joy in all things good and true and beautiful … their patience under trial and difficulty … their ability to love people so completely, so indiscriminately … their self-sacrifice for the good of others.

Frankly, these folk are a complete frustration to political leaders who are out to earn votes, because their opinions and motivations simply are not controlled by self-interest. Anglos among them, for example, care more about immigration justice for Hispanics than they do matters of self-preservation. They all care passionately about those who are completely off the political radar screen: native-American peoples, the urban homeless and the Appalachian poor, the very young and the very old, and more.

These folk, having learned to live well, easily and freely esteem others better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). They have learned deep down to the marrow in their bones the freeing power of living without guile. Day by day. They rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Neither selfish ambition nor conceit can be found among them. They have learned the life-giving power of building one another up, and they do so without hesitation. Indeed, they live lives of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

Well, like I said, it’s A Dream… and a Hope.

Peace and joy,

Richard J. Foster

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Text First Published October 2006 · Last Featured on June 2022