Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Runaway. . . to God's House. . .

As we journey through Lent, hopefully we have a heightened sense of sin and corruption it has brought to the body, mind, and all relationships.  Along with that awareness of our sin and sinful condition and our inability to free ourselves, we should also consider how the forgiven and redeemed of the Lord should meet sin and evil around us.  For example, 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to flee from sexual immorality.  St. Paul is not shy in telling us not simply to avoid sin if we can but to runaway in the face of evil.  There can be no participation in evil without sin corrupting us even further.  Worst of all is our complacency in the face of sin and evil.  When we learn to be at ease with the sin around us, we are soon its victims if not its willing accomplices.

Let me add a few additional warnings.  Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.  (1 Corinthians 10:14).  Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)  Abstain from every form of evil. (2 Thessalonians 5:22)  There is a rich tradition of such warnings, in the Old Testament canon and in the Apocrypha.  “Flee from sin as from the face of a serpent: for if thou comest too near it, it will bite thee: the teeth thereof are as the teeth of a lion, slaying the souls of men.”  (Ecclesiasticus 21:2)   Flee from the midst of Babylon; let every one save his life! (Jeremiah 51:6)  These are but a few drawn from Scripture and I could add so many more -- those more blunt as well as those rather subtle.

The point is this.  We are to run from evil.  We are to flee from sin.  It is not possible to be near sin and be unaffected by it.  It is like the addict who insists that he could stop anytime he wants, the problem is that evil corrupts the heart and infects desire so that we do not want to stop.  This does not mean to suggest that we are to find a safe place where sin does not exist and remain there but it certainly does warn us against being complicit in evil and remaining away from the Lord's House with the remedy of His grace to restore the sinner and His Spirit to change the heart.  

A year or so ago I quoted the wisdom of Justin Bieber who said 'You don't need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn't make you a taco.'  He was only quoting Billy Sunday who once said  “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” And he was only following G. K. Chesterton who said "Just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car"

And we all laugh.  But the sad reality is that he speaks for many Christians who presume that faith lives so deep within it cannot be corrupted by evil without and it does not need to be nourished and nurtured by the gifts of God's House in the Word preached and the Sacraments administered.  That is not a laughing matter.  The Scriptures have no concept of individual spirituality and do not countenance the idea that Christianity is something personal and individual that has nothing to do with anyone else. That way of thinking is very modern, indeed.  It certainly knows nothing of Jesus who was always in the synagogue and Temple and it disdains what Scripture lauds in Simeon and Anna who were always in the Temple worshiping God and praying.  

The Church is not optional to the faithful but essential.  It is the divinely commanded place where He has put His Word and Sacrament, where His people gather in worship and prayer, and where we receive His care.  We are to flee from evil but run to the Lord's House.  Now during Lent it would be a good time to reconsider how long some Christians have been apart from the Lord's House.  It would be a good time to heed the Lord's call to flee from evil but to run to the place where God has put His Word and Sacrament.  We treat the things of God as if they were for the weak or those who like them or those who need them.  But every Christian is weak and needs the grace of God's House and people.  Every Christian is called to love the habitation of the Lord's House and His gracious ministry to us there.  And every Christian needs what God offers.

This Lent is a good time to look at our lives.  Are we too comfortable with sin, with the ways of the sinner, and with a life lived in solitude from God's House?  If we seek to run from sin and evil, where do we run to?  The answer lies where God has placed it -- where His Word is read and preached, where His voice absolves us of our sins and restores us as His own with a clear conscience again, where the body and blood of Christ are our food here and our foretaste of the eternal to come, and where we respond with words of praise and prayer, with songs of prayer and thanksgiving, and with the tithes and offerings of a grateful heart. 

No comments: