Here’s a thought for your 2017 resolutions. Christianity was never meant to be mainstream. We were never meant to be popular or enjoy any kind of power here on earth. Christian was probably historically a derogative term, meant to label and disregard the “little” people who followed after a rebel and a criminal who called himself “The Chosen One.”
Maybe the Church in America is finally getting a taste of this in any kind of actual way. Reality is that we have enjoyed freedoms that were never meant for true believers. Jesus told us that we would have trouble. He told us that being chosen meant suffering and pain and death. There was no doubt about that for those who followed him then. They all suffered. They all had more than their share of pain. They all died, some horrifically, for the name of Christ.
Maybe what we have witnessed in the progression of post-modernity, now being called post-Christianity (though it arguably has really been quite some time since real Christianity was the status quo), shows us that we’ve been clinging to the wrong ideals all along. We didn’t really want freedom for all, we wanted freedom for us, and maybe actually honestly assimilation for everyone else, or at least to not have to explain ourselves to everyone else.
Explaining yourself is a requirement of the Gospel bearer. Sorry to break it to you. We’ve gone too long now without reasoning through the good news of Jesus. It’s just been accepted. It’s just been a given for too long. Because when something “just is” it becomes something less than what it just was. Does that make sense?
It’s the wide and the narrow of it. Jesus told us our way would be narrow and steep. We’ve been on cruise control. We’ve enjoyed spacious lanes and a wide berth. Meanwhile, we’ve forgotten how to drive at all. We’ve gotten away with stupid habits, and our road rage is coming out. We stopped paying attention to signs and have gotten really aggressive and annoying. Especially when it comes to merging with others. We just don’t. We forgot how. We stopped loving and wooing, and forgot to be winsome and persuasive because we just didn’t need to for far too long.
This isn’t the way of Gospel lives. This isn’t the cross we’re called to bear. We are made for receiving pressure. We are made to swim upstream. We are built to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness where people laugh at us, throw things at us, question everything we say, and dismiss us thoroughly. We are created to explain what we believe. Because we are little Jesus. We are made to tell stories, parables, allegories that appeal to our listeners, that cause them to ponder anew. We are given the gift of the spirit indwelling, growing us, pushing us to do better, to be better, to love better, to be kinder. We are tossed and turned, refined in fire to come out more beautiful and full of awe and wonder. we’ve been resisting the fire. We think we don’t deserve the fire. We think we deserve better than fire. We think fire is punishment. Truth is the fire is the very best place for us. Truth is we need the fire. Fire isn’t punishment. It points us to the cross. It makes us beg for mercy and God’s grace. It brings us to our knees and makes us rely wholly on God’s strength and wisdom. It strikes out the pride and arrogance of any other way. It purifies our hearts of all our idols, of comfort, of greed, our notions of reward and punishment, our notions of a God who smiles only on those who look like us, act like us. It questions our integrity, our motives, our rationales. It points us to the cross, or if we do not turn to the cross in our most desperate hour, it points us to what we are really believing in and clinging to. Woe to us who have placed our hope in something less.
It’s time, Church. It’s our time, American Church. Down here, it’s our time. Time to walk in the light of truth AND grace. Time to walk into the fire and flame, trustingly, willingly, singing redemption songs. It’s time to believe again that Jesus is the only way and that His way is perfect, though treacherous and not safe. It’s time to lose our religion and gain our true freedom in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, our true hope in the restoration of all things, and our faith in God’s promises to bring His beautiful Bride home.