Recently I visited a growing Southern town, and became reacquainted with a rather depressing truth of modern evangelicalism — it is a mile wide and a few inches deep. I met with several sincere, believing Christians, who have not yet understood the sacrifices required of those who who bear the cross. That they were in their 30’s is even more depressing, but it is not them as individuals I wish to critique; it is rather that what I saw was typical.
Too many Christians do not understand that everything they do falls under the auspices of Christ. Yes, Jesus cares about what you spend money upon. This means that Jesus cares about what you purchase, and from whom. This quickly becomes uncomfortable for many, because they do not want to give up the things that they enjoy if such things promote evil. They choose friendship with the world rather than obedience to Christ for the sake of food. Now, is this to say that we all must buy the same things or refrain from buying the same things? No, but I am willing to bet that if you knew that a company fostered homosexuality, government dependence, or any other evil, would you be able to turn a blind eye?
Another common escape route claimed by my fellow brothers and sisters is ignorance. “I didn’t know that the Home Depot sponsored homosexual parades!” “I didn’t know that Starbucks said they were proud to have no shops in Israel!” Do you really think, deep down, that God will be pleased with you if you, whose job it is to penetrate the culture and spread the message of Christ, remain ignorant of the culture? How can you be doing your job if you are perpetually unaware? I wonder. The redeemed life is not a life of joy absent from the world; we are both IN and NOT OF. Too many of my brethren are not truly IN the world.
A subset of this ignorance of the world is a holier-than-thou somersault — being so heavenly-minded that you’re no earthly good. This particular strain of escapism prides itself on an almost gnostic level of unconcern about the world; while it is true that the battle is the Lord’s, we are not called to be missing from battle. Too many Christians are spiritually AWOL, spending their time in their own little Christian ghetto (where everything comes with “Christian” as an adjective), never wondering how the ghetto was created. Are they so inwards-looking because others and themselves have forgotten to strive to reach the lost? And to reach the lost means to know something about them, and the world, and the actors in it, yes?
Another claim often used is “I’m so busy with X, I don’t have time for Y.” People who have children use this one; while I understand that children do consume your time, again, do you think Jesus will be satisfied with that excuse? It’s like saying, “God, I’m so busy with driving that I don’t have time for an oil change.” Fool! If you do not care for the car, you will not have one. And you cannot raise children without being aware of the environment which they are in; school board meetings and principal’s decisions are now more politically-based and biased than ever, and the spiritual war has come down to the classroom level. There is no escaping our duty, and you cannot use children, charity work, programming, music, or anything else as a shield, for the very thing you use as a shield or want to shield, is in the world also.
These excuses paralyze modern evangelicalism; they make it insular and ineffective at disciplining believers as well as in reaching the lost. However, they persist due to a faulty understanding of Christ. Jesus is not a magic gumball machine that gives you heaven in exchange for acknowledgement and then walks away. He forgives all sin of an individual – past, present, future – and gives us life and life to the full. We have a mission while we are here, and to be ignorant of it, escape from it, or make up excuses is like joining the race but refusing to cross the line once the starting pistol is shot. Why bother running if you aren’t interested in discipleship? Why bother running if you’re not interested in sacrifice? Why bother running if you aren’t willing to stand out, to be different, to be weird? Isn’t the truth worth it after all? The people who chase safety and spend their lives not knowing will find their earthly life a poverty of reduced possibilities and their eternity, nothing to anticipate. While life is ours, we must seize it and make a scorch mark for the truth; life is a vapor and we do not have forever to act!