I think it’s what we call “down home” Christianity. Where difficult scripture passages that deal with unpopular cultural issues are quietly (or not so quietly) swept under the rug and remain there collecting dust, while we continue singing our favorite hymns with great gusto and chatting comfortably afterward amidst the pleasant buzz of social fellowship and clanging coffee cups.
It’s laid back and trouble free. Old patterns and comfortable customs remain intact and unthreatened, and (yawn) we can be sure of a low cost, non offensive, and maximized benefits from social relationships type of Christianity.
But is it really without cost? What did Christ mean when he said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.”? And, “If you love your father and mother more than me…”
Is this the kind of Christianity our forefathers in the faith burned at the stake for? John Hus? William Tyndale? Dietrich Bonheoffer (who died in Nazi imprisonment when he could have walked free)? You know, the guys they hung on the walls in dark cells in the tower of London for weeks on end, who were forced to defecate and urinate on themselves as they awaited a mock trial. And when they finally saw daylight again, it was only to have a wire cinched around their windpipe and then to be tossed into the flames. How’s that coffee doing? Ready for a refill yet?
Ever wonder what they thought about while hanging chained to those walls, day after day? After the adrenaline and the Holy Spirit which had burned so hot when they boldly refused to recant, slowly grew cold and died away, and the hours ticked on? That’s very much a part of real Christianity. And if you don’t think so, you might try a little less selective reading of the New Testament the next time through. Jesus guaranteed that those who identified with Himself would be persecuted. And there were thousands of other godly women and men who paid the ultimate price for choosing Christ.
Is it the same Christianity that Peter, Paul and the other disciples were eventually crucified for? Or how about our Puritan forefathers, many wealthy landowners, who left all real property and risked the lives of their wives and children to establish a new nation, one conceived in liberty and freedom of worship?
What did Christ mean when he said he who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it? Are we allowing Christ to use us, perhaps in some mundane and glory free way where we plod along in His service receiving no credit but yet having done all, taking a stand and still standing?
Or are we in fact using Christ and His Church to fill our lives with people and events that enliven our social calendar, get us next to a girl or guy we find attractive, or job and business and social opportunities that enhance our personal interests and generally serve our own agenda?
Is it possible that while we are on our way to heaven, down here we are picking and choosing the most comfortable, profitable, and cost free form of Christianity we can?
Appearing to agree with everyone and thus offending no one? An admirable trait to be sure but one which carried to an extreme could have us falling into the category of chameleons, not Christians. And putting ourselves in danger of totally missing the high mark of our calling, which Paul put this way,
And we don’t have to pick up arms, or sail away to unknown and distant parts of the globe. All we have to do is pick up the Scriptures and carefully and honestly interpret and then quietly follow them…and yes, go against the flow of the overall culture, the local culture, even the family culture a little. Or a lot. And if we do so it may cost us jobs, relationships, broken family ties, scorn and ridicule, social discomfort, and even at some point in time, a hot burning stake.
But that’s nothing new. It’s exactly what Christ Himself said would happen. That’s the kind of Christianity that people have been living and dying for, for two millennia. Why should we be any different?