A recent article in Prism (Ron Sider’s publication) by Wendy Bilgen shows a fascinating snapshot of life in Turkey. Bilgen and her husband, a Turkish native, recently returned to Turkey to live. She writes:
One day our son’s new Turkish friend asked my husband, a Turkish native returning to his homeland to preach the gospel,”Why do you follow Isa?”
“Jesus invited me to follow him,” my husband answered “His words are true. I couldn’t say no. Why are you a Muslim?”
“My chevre invites me to follow Islam,” the young boy answered. “How can I say no?”
What is a chevre? Bilgen says,
In the West community is sometimes considered optional, in Turkey it is difficult to do much of anything without your chevre. It’s the group you depend onto help you get that first job, pay your bills when money is tight, find a mate, even learn how to live with your mate. It’s the group that defines who you are and what you will do in life. Without a chevre you’re on the outside, unprotected and vulnerable.
In our culture, transcending the group is considered successful while being a part of the group is considered failure. You learn how to fend for yourself so you will not be ‘dependent’ or ‘defined’ by anyone except for y.o.u. Success is transcending family, church and anything else that keeps you from your ultimate goal–complete freedom and (mostly financial) independence.
We Christians can learn from the chevre, not in terms of intimidation or for control, but to point to what the Body of Christ is supposed to be about. Ours is the first Christian culture in history that acts as if it were disembodied. Jesus is necessary, the church not so much. Jesus saves, the church is a distraction or a necessary evil.
But the Church is God’s idea, not ours. Our calling is to be a Body which is consecrated, set apart, to be a light and a blessing to the nations. Being a part of the people of God is a privilege; being grafted in by baptism an awesome responsibility. Our promises made at baptism and our sacramental union with Christ in the church ‘defines who we are and what we will do in life.’ The Church is the ultimate chevre.