You, Christian, have been redeemed, reconciled, and renewed to change the world. You, Christian, must conquer your family, neighborhood, workplace, and even the world for the Kingdom. You must be radical, extreme, on the edge, extraordinary. Or not.
Tony Merida, Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern and Pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC, thinks that Christians are called to be extraordinary. That’s right, Christians are called to live ordinary lives for the King who created and saved them. But ordinary living as a Christian in this world means the world may well be turned upside down. Thus, Tony wrote the book, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down (B&H).
In Ordinary, Tony displays the concern God has for the ordinary, or especially the outcasts, of the world. God, he claims, is a God of justice, one whose heart beats for the poor such that he became a poor man, Jesus Christ, and died a rejected criminal. The Bible is replete with evidence that God cares for the poor, orphans, widows, and other outcasts. This truth struck Tony earlier in his life and it has griped him ever since. His family tries to live out a PEACE plan that incorporates evangelism and social justice into a seamless whole. He is a good teacher and model for us on this way of integrated living before God and people.
So Tony wrote Ordinary in order to “identify some ‘ordinary things’ that ordinary people like us can do, and if we do them with gospel intentionality (speaking and showing the gospel), then we can make an extraordinary impact.” (p. 9) The introduction addresses the Bible’s testimony on the gospel-social justice nexus and the tendency we evangelical Christians have to sensationalize everything we do in the name of Jesus. The book then unfolds in five concise, easy-to-read chapters that address the key topics of ordinary living as a Christian: neighbor love, hospitality, orphan care, advocacy for the voiceless, and humility. In the conclusion, Tony exhorts us to take up this way of life, which is consistent with God’s character and plan for history.
The chapter titles indicate the clear, ordinary path Tony walks for us:
Introduction – Confessions: Trading Sensationalism for Ordinary Christianity
Chapter 1 – Neighbor Love: How Justified Sinners Show Compassion in Word and Deed
Chapter 2 – Kingdom Hospitality: How the King’s People Welcome Others
Chapter 3 – Care for the Vulnerable: How the Father’s Children Love the Fatherless
Chapter 4 – Courageous Advocacy: How God’s People Speak Up for the Voiceless (with Kimberly Merida)
Chapter 5 – God-Centered Humility: How an Ordinary Christian Walked with His Extraordinary God
Conclusion – Longing for a Just World
Some of us will (or do) live lives on the edge––serving Christ and his church in dangerous, far-off places––and such living glorifies God. But most of us live lives in the normal––serving Christ and his church in 9-5 jobs, coming home to our plain homes that our average families inhabit––and such living, when lived in grace-filled obedience to Christ, glorifies God. Tony Merida has reminded us all of what this life looks like. Students, teachers, small groups, and Sunday school classes––basically any Christian––will benefit from reading this book.