Sunday, June 30, 2019
The greater danger. . .
Now, looking back, it is understandable why so many feel a sense of nostalgia for a time when it did not appear to be difficult to be Christian and it certainly did not seem to cost you much to be identified as a follower of Jesus. Yet, the boomer in me and in the folks of my generation have bequeathed a terrible legacy to the church of today. We still cling to the idea and have taught it to our children that being a Christian isn't really all that hard, you can disagree with the Scriptures and still be a good Christian, you do not need to practice your faith and still be a good Christian, your life and lifestyle does not need to change to be a good Christian, and Christianity is more like a little something extra than it is an ontological transformation.
It is long past time to be more honest and forthright with ourselves and with our children. Being Christian is not the easy way. Going with the flow of culture and the world and the sinful desires of the heart is the easy way. Christianity is not for the faint of heart. Christianity is hard. It does not only expect a change in you but constantly calls you to repentance (to change) in which the old you dies and the new you in Christ continually arises to live in but not of the world. That is the state we are in today. We live in a world no longer overtly friendly but one that is downright suspicious of Christians, suspect of the Church and its motives, and quite willing to reject any and all claims of truth that do not accord with the momentary desire of the heart. Christianity is no longer the easy religion it once seemed. If that day ever was, it is long gone.
It is this that Rod Dreher's Benedict Option and the voices of others address. We can no longer afford a shallow, uncertain, compromising Christianity (as if we ever could). Now it requires of us that we be faithful when faithfulness is hard and the world loves to sit in judgment against us. Christianity cannot afford to be an option of compromise to the world -- not in doctrine or life. And it will certainly hurt to stand up and to stand out as the people God has declared us to be in Christ. Our words will risk being labeled as hate speech, our actions of charity will be rejected unless they abandon every form of witness which accompanies them, and our ranks will thin under the duress of a world in which a crossless Christ dies for people who do not sin. Abortion has placed this tension in the limelight but even here we cannot win the day simply by passing laws to make killing the unborn evil, we must also offer a positive witness for why life is good and valuable.
As a parent and grandparent I wonder what kind of world my children will live in when they are my age and what kind of world my grandchildren will grow up in -- and, of course, whether they will remain faithful as the world increasingly rejects anything of orthodox doctrine and practice. Living in the South I know we are buffered against some of the more overt forms of persecution of Christianity but it is but a temporary refuge. What happens in the bastions of illiberal liberalism will soon show up here in Tennessee, as they already have the rural remotes and suburban regions of the Midwest where I grew up.
The greater danger to us today is not a Christianity which is deemed loveless by those who reject the truth of the Scriptures but a Christianity which is too spineless and weak to be true to Christ in a world of challenge. We do not risk making Christianity too difficult for those who might be interested in pursing their interest in the Gospel but we certainly do risk making Christian too casual and easy to be worth believing and living. Cheap grace was Bonhoeffer's charge but we have made cheap grace normal and a pious and godly life that reflects our baptism and faith something rare. It shows up in the evangelical preaching which attempts to offer a good life now as a worthy substitute for a life that is eternal. It is just such a Gospel that is a mile wide but an inch deep which forces God to submit to your desires and places upon Him the requirement of change. Any talk of a Benedict Option has at is core not a political strategy but a desire to be the holy men and women God has declared us to be, to strive not for what will get us by but the fullness of our lives in Christ under the cross, and for the courage and will to live under Him now so that we will be prepared to live under Him in eternity when He comes to claim us for this everlasting life. Far from making too much of sin and redemption, judgment and absolution, life in Christ in the world, we have made too little and our Christianity has become fat, bloated, lazy, and selfish. Strangely enough, there are those even in orthodox churches who tell us to give up even more to the prevailing winds of change. It is not simply sexuality that is at stack but truth. Until we realize this, we risk making even cheaper the costly redemption which Jesus paid for with His own life and death.