Friday, February 11, 2011

The Great Crisis of Christianity In Us...

The great crisis that Christianity produces in us is not usually when we're presented with our own death. The indomitability of pride and our human will to survive constitutes enough for us to sacrifice our own lives for something we hold to be true. That is the case of many belief systems and ideologies. A Kamikaze pilot, Islamic extremist or death bomber all hold the same commitment to die for their beliefs. The great crisis that Christianity produces within us is that our obedience may require sacrifice in the lives of those around us. It is one thing to die for what you believe in, it is entirely another to watch the ones you love suffer torture, disdain, mockery and death for what you hold to be true.

This crisis produces a tremendous tension between what we want to believe is true about God, and the capacity we have to respond to that truth - and - rescue the lives of those we love in that process. This is where a dissonance between the intellectual ascension of ideas and the allegiance to a person begins. We must realize that every Scripture and Biblical admonishment we received is on a continuum of understanding. Philosophy, ideology and intellectual ascension stand at one end of the continuum - where man's ability to theorize and assimilate information allows him to remain above circumstance and ultimately to have the last word. On the other end is a personhood - God, an infinite and self-sustained deity who holds all things in His sovereignty, who understands with simplicity those things which man deems mystery, and who ultimately has the last word in all things. On every issue, we filter our beliefs and interpretations somewhere along that continuum.

If we arrive nearer the end of man's intellect, then in a crisis saving the lives of those around us will trump our personal obedience to God on the rationalization that He knows our truest intent is to serve him and that rescuing lives is something that even He would have the grace for us to do. In fact, since He is a gracious God he will forgive and understand our trouble in compromising personal declaration for the chance to intervene in the destruction of another's life. Beware. When our will to save lives stands above our obedience to Him who created and gives life, we are in grave danger.

If, however, our reception of Biblical truths finds its understanding at the opposite end of the continuum, where He - the personhood of God - sovereignly reigns, exercising His will and having the the last word, then our response will be different. Until we understand that the consequences of our obedience lies in His hands, we will continue to try and intervene and run damage control in other peoples lives.

True Christianity will produce a powerfully destructive force in our own lives, until we understand it rightly. This IS the great joy and triumphant freedom, coupled with the gruesome end of our flesh that we face in surrender to Jesus Christ. For He who alone who can produce right standing in us first requires total surrender from us - even when others are drawn into our own perilous circumstances.

Imagine the Apostle John in the first century church, last of the twelve of the inner circle with Jesus. He's now talking to young men, women and children that are daily faced with circumstances where their faith could demand their lives. Imagine him turning to young men and saying, "Listen, if you are arrested and put on trial for your faith, make sure that the authorities believe that it is only you who are a Christian...your wife and children do not know about your secret Christian beliefs, and you have deceived them. In this way, they too will not be thrown to the lions."

Contrast the above with endless stories of saints who have been at deaths door, their own families drawn into their peril on behalf of their own faith. At the end of their defense and moments before torture or death, a father unapologetically and with great compassion looks to his son, a mother to her little girl, "No matter what - stand strong! Jesus is with us - He'll never let us go! If we do not deny Him, He will not deny us". The trigger is pulled. The blade is dropped. The lions are loosed. And the One name that is above every name, is as much glorified in the lives of the ones who suffered on another's account as it is on the one who testified.

Let us not become amateur deities in the lives of other people. Let us not look upon their peril as a condition for our obedience to HE who alone gives life. Instead, let us fix our gaze steadily before us and have such resolution by His Spirit that He is worthy no matter the cost. For we reckon that HE who demands life can raise it again. For when the fear of death is defeated within us, then no more remains to dissuade us from our unwavering obedience to Him.

All glory be forever to Jesus Christ, Amen.

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