THE GOD OF THE MUNDANE: A critique of Matthew Redmond’s book
Written by Shane Lems | Sunday, August 25, 2013
To bring God glory and honor, the Christian doesn’t have to change the world or do all sorts of spectacular things for the good of the Kingdom. A follower of Christ can serve the Lord well in an obscure, behind-the-scenes, everyday manner (whether trimming lawns or teaching driver’s education). Christians can please God without ever doing anything special or extraordinary. To live “a quiet life” (1 Tim. 2.2) is to live a Christian life.
So argues Matthew Redmond in THE GOD OF THE MUNDANE. In a world of fame, glamour, stardom, and super-sizing, this book broadcasts a message every ordinary Christian needs to hear: you can serve God well right where you’re at. “This little book is not a call to do nothing. It is a call to be faithful right where you are, regardless of how mundane that place is” (loc. 1102).
“It is encouraging that there is a God of the mundane, because lives are just that – mundane. This is good news for those who have tried trying to live fantastically. And this is spectacular news for those who have been tempted to think their lives escape the notice of God because they are decidedly not spectacular” (loc. 245).
Redmond isn’t ambiguous in speaking of vocation: “[The Apostle Paul] never asks [the recipients of his epistles] to stop being who they are. He never challenges them to go anywhere. We don’t even get hints that lead us to believe he is making them feel guilty for living in comparative comfort compared to his lack of it. That’s weird. And it’s weird because this is so common in our pulpits and in conferences held for zealous college students” (loc. 291).
I appreciate Redmond’s breakdown of how the guilt of doing nothing in life works:
Stage One: I feel guilty about doing nothing.
Stage Two: Therefore I must get on with something obviously significant.
Stage Three: Now we judge others by this standard. If they are not doing something obviously significant then we automatically say to ourselves or to them and certainly to others, ‘They are not serious about their faith! If they were, they would do…’” (loc. 712).
What is Redmond’s radical call? There is no radical call. That’s the point. “Be nobody special. Do your job. Take care of your family. Clean your house. Mow your yard. Read your Bible. Attend worship. Pray. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Love your spouse. Love your kids. Be generous. …Expect no special treatment. And do it all quietly” (loc. 1096).
I highly recommend this book for average Christians who think they are doing nothing for Christ. If you feel like your job in hospital billing, irrigation, or basketball coaching isn’t good enough, get this book. THE GOD OF THE MUNDANE is a modern-day application of Luther’s excellent discussion of vocation coupled with his theology of suffering (not glory!). This book might go against the flow of some things you’ve heard in evangelical circles, but it’s a good counterpoint that is definitely needed.
(By the way, the book is available for under $3 at Kindle.)
Shane Lems is pastor of the United Reformed Church in Sunnyside, Washington (in the Yakima Valley). He is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California. He blogs, along with fellow classmate Andrew Compton, at Reformed Reader.