There have been a number of books written lately about the ordinary Christian life. Far too many have been pursuing what they perceive to be extraordinary when in actuality, God has been and is calling His people to something that on the surface may seem ordinary, but in reality is actually more extraordinary than the emphasis on the extraordinary so many are focused upon. Tony Merida, in his helpful book, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, explores from a biblical perspective what the ordinary Christian life is all about.
Merida notes in the introduction how he came to realize what this ordinary Christian life is supposed to look like. He pondered what arguably many others ponder when they read passages that speak of the poor and the widow, namely that of believing that focusing on such things steers one too close to liberal theological pursuits, specifically the social justice movement so often rooted in liberal thought. The question one must answer is what does Scripture demand of us as God’s people? Merida rightly proposes that “We need Christians focusing on ordinary Christianity – speaking up for the voiceless, caring for the single mom, restoring the broken, bearing burdens, welcoming the functionally fatherless, and speaking the good news to people on a regular basis in order to change the world.” After all, this is what is described as pure and undefiled religion.
Not merely content to make what is certainly an outstanding theological statement, Merida walks the reader through the remainder of this book on the active part of what it means to be ordinary. It is one thing to nod your head and affirm with your head that we are called to help those in need. The true proof of our commitment is in our actions. Merida provides the reader with a number of ways to demonstrate we are on the path towards the ordinary Christian walk.
While each chapter is excellent, the point that touched my heart the most was Merida’s discussion of reaching out to the fatherless. As the father of an adopted child, this issue is quite near and dear to my heart. The number of children languishing in horrible situations around the world and even in our own country is staggering. Victims of neglect, abuse, starvation, and even the most basis essentials of life, they are often passed by, pushed to the side by far too many as those who reject their needs pursue the chase for the gold at the end of the rainbow. Merida aptly comments that the “trio of the vulnerable – the orphan, widow, and sojourner – receive special attention in the Old Testament.” In that period of history and still today, those individuals were among the most “helpless members of society.” God commanded, not suggested but commanded His people to take care of those in need. God became very angry with His people when they neglected those in need. Merida also correctly notes that the New Testament presents this same theme. As noted earlier, James wrote that pure and undefiled religion is “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” Merida wonderfully reminds the reader that to visit is to actively and physically care and is not relegated to mailing a check as if that covers our religious duty.
This chapter, along with all the others for that matter, is a needed call to action. It is a call to do the ordinary things that truly must define who we are as the people of God. While such pursuits may not bring attention to ourselves or seem like they are making an impact in a world so full of problems, if we are doing the ordinary, we are being obedient to God’s Word. Merida saliently comments that as we long for the day when all things are made new, “we find hope and power to do justice in this present world.”
I highly recommend this book for all believers. Merida shares from a heart of compassion and from the perspective of an individual who is putting his practice what he is preaching in this book. If you read this book, you will find yourself challenged and your paradigm shifted. I trust that you will take heart what Merida is sharing for it is biblically sound. This world is full of people crying out for help. Will you be God’s hands to those in need? Will you be the ordinary person God is calling you to be?
I received this book for free from B&H Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”