18 February 2009
As a fan of urbanity, few things excite me as much as a downtown building conversion. Usually, these come in the form of an antiquated, high-rise office building being re-imagined and re-purposed as vintage condos. Walls come down, incredible views are rediscovered, and a structure that was intended for great things again gets the opportunity to fulfill that vision.
The Christian use of the term “conversion” has fallen out of favor with folks in recent times. Somehow, though, it seems more accurate than the others that have risen to take its place.
Let’s think about it. Jesus repeatedly asked people to follow Him, to commit to the new “way”. He invited them on a journey, a re-purposing. There was no signing of a contract or awkward formality involved. It was as if he said, “Follow me wholeheartedly or don’t”. And following meant ascribing to the new way. It meant holding mercy instead of vengeance, grace instead of judgment, and selfless sacrifice instead of self-determined righteousness.
He asked people to make a lifestyle conversion. He asked them to re-imagine and re-purpose their lives. Where they once lived hoping to attain righteousness through religiosity, He invited them to live lives that leaked love and grace, relying on His overflowing righteousness.
We have (shamefully) made Christianity a transactional process. Bow your head, say a prayer, raise a hand, and walk away saved. Swipe the credit card and take home the merchandise. It just doesn’t ring true to me.
So then, if it is indeed a process, what kind of process is it…?
Maybe it is more like a high-rise conversion. An acknowledged history is released and a new identity can take hold. Walls come down. And construction takes place. Years later, the evidence of what the building once was still remains. Yet somehow, it is tangibly different. When exactly it changed over isn’t quite clear, but it is known to have happened. The evidence is unmistakable.
I don’t know, really. Next time I see a downtown building in the process of conversion, I will certainly take a longer look.