The tenth chapter begins with Dan going to a bar and Neo offering him a drink. Dan comes from a line of teetotalers and does not wish to imbibe, but by the end of the chapter he tries a helping of Neo’s “Wicked Ale,” finding that it’s not so wicked after all. I have also been disappointed to learn that menu items at restaurants did not live up to my expectations. Then, the discussion turns toward matters of consequence.
Neo poses the dilemma that liberals believe that the coming of God’s Kingdom is for the salvation of the whole world, while conservatives might approach it soul by soul. As with many dichotomies we imagine, limiting our thinking to two ends of a pole is reductive. Author Brian McLaren would call it insufficiently postmodern. I still don’t know what postmodern means fully, so I would just call it intellectually lazy.
We can accomplish both at the same time, and it’s probably the most efficient means of accomplishing one to pursue the other. During my days as a heathen, in times of personal turmoil, a thought which gave me solace was: “I must by my actions chase the benefit of my family,” or sometimes, “the benefit of the nation and society,” or sometimes, “the benefit of planet Earth,” or—most effectively—“the benefit of THE SPECIES.” I think that much of what we might term to be moral behavior has to do with our own actions being in line with the good of the whole. This is not to be set opposed to our own benefit at all times, but considering the interests of others is important. When I set my actions in line with the benefit of my fellow-people, I felt that my soul was at peace. Without discipline, practice, and a community at my back, I wasn’t too terribly effective, but I still think I had the right idea.
The way we will find to optimally benefit ourselves while benefiting our community is one of the most important pursuits of our lives. A good church and community of faith will be one who helps its members serve.
Neo continues by citing the writings of Paul Tournier: “The meaning of life… despite the diversity of its various stages, is obedience to God.” A child obeys God, using the life he is given, by growing and developing; an adolescent, using God’s granted life, makes choices; an adult, using what God has made her into, throws herself at her life’s work and creative endeavors; an elder, heeding the transcendent fact that we are “strangers and exiles on the earth,” detaches from practical things and ephemeral actions and attaches to transcendent values. Oh, of how great a value to a community is a wise elder, or a diligent adult, or a wide-eyed adolescent, or a little child growing so fast! I can think of few blessings so common yet so great. The one who is faithful to the community blesses the community – all the communities: family, church, society, and world – and I believe that that person will also find the soul blessed in Christ.