Last December, I had lunch with a friend. We talked about the election, the war, the Middle East, Israel, and Jesus. She reminded me of the verse in Matthew that I referenced last week. I found myself balking a bit because quite honestly, I had missed it. In all my years of being a Christian, I hadn't remembered what was possibly one of the most piercing things Jesus would utter.
That word - that many will turn away, or, as some translations put it, that the love of many will grow cold - sat within my soul for weeks. I found it disturbing. Why would Christians - those who had claimed to love Christ and His church - turn away? Especially when we are, as believers, educated about what's coming, at least to a degree, and what we stand to inherit through Him? My heart felt heavy as it became clearer to me: maybe we don't all totally understand anymore what defines a Christian, what sets us apart, what can give us assurance, despite our own weakness, that we won't turn away. As I look at my daughters, I wonder if the road they will walk will be darker than my own? Most certainly. At every junction in their path, they will be confronted with a choice: God or man. This may sound blase, considering this choice seems to have presented itself to believers for generations. But I think the choice will get less clear - grayer, if you will. No longer will it be black and white - here I stand for Christ, here the world. Instead, I believe they will begin to experience a world in which they are taught they can stand for both. In fact, to do so in the eyes of the world and in some cases, the church, will be a mark of progressivism, or realism, in the faith. Indeed, even now we are living in a time when black and white are no longer considered appropriate symbols for, well, anything. Nothing can be completely good or bad, completely wrong or right - everything must be draped in the uncertainty of gray. To determine anything as absolute is to be determined absolutely backward.
What a weapon Satan is wielding! He knows that we "have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside [our heads]....[that we don't] think about doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical', 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'" (The Screwtape Letters, p. 1).
Are you swept away by being good? Even as a Christian, are you convinced, somewhere in the corner of your heart, that goodness does, in fact, matter? There is a video on YouTube about the new American pledge. What we should all be standing for. I heard it was atrocious; I found it actually rather innocuous. It is a five minute stream of celebrities determining to pledge themselves to one endeavor or the other, from turning off the lights to being good parents. Aside from a few overtly politicizing statements, they're all good objectives. Most of us could stand to do more good things. But Good will be the enemy of the Best every time.
How do you know you won't be one of the many? Be near to Him and He will be near to you - live in Him, and He will live in you. Do good not to get to Him, or to please Him, or to make a good impression - no, do good when you can't help but do good. When you are swept away by Him, and goodness - and love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and faithfulness, and gentleness and self-control - flows out of you, not because of you, but because of Him.
When Jesus said that we are to love Him with all of our hearts, and all of our souls, and all of our minds, He was giving us a clue. A tactic for battle. We are dimensional. We are multi-faceted. We are made to feel, to understand, and to know. With these three things, we can experience love and hope and faith. We can find a relationship with Christ that isn't flat and conventional and based on routine or ritual - hardly a relationship, I daresay - but rather something messy and difficult but rewarding and rejuvenating. Something living, breathing... something alive that keeps us alive. But the battle rages. And Satan will use the Father's gifts against us. Be careful not to let what you think you feel, or what you think you understand, or what you think you know become what you proclaim as truth.
He is Truth. And there is nothing gray about Him.