Sharpening the Iron of the Church

Do I Dare Sit With Christ?

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his historic speech in Washington on August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that the pulse of his dream for America was to live to see a day when the color of his skin would not be a component of the judging of a man. He did not live to see that day. Not only has that dream not been realized, it seems to have been abandoned altogether. Many of the very persons for which King so longed to see such a dream come to pass have abandoned this noble vision in favor of the politics of race.

The ideals that King and so many others pursued, even giving their lives for; that we would judge men by their character, their integrity, and their values have been supplanted by race, gender, and sexual preference. Americans are so violently polarized along these issues that the concept of reasonable discussion or congenial discourse has been tossed aside in favor of utter meanness, disgusting and vile shaming of others, name calling, slander; all boiling in a caldron of hatred fueled by the willingness to celebrate any manner of what I am sure will be in the next edition of the dictionary – “fake news.” We exist in a perpetual state of “gotcha,” where the simple act of accusation has far more power than evidence and feelings have far more weight than truth. We are truly engaged in what some call Culture Wars.

I am a Christian. Traditional Christian values are at the heart of the so-called “culture wars.” There is a pitched battle in our nation (and indeed, the entire world) to determine whether the wars will be won by conservatives or liberals, Christian or secular, socialism or capitalism, straight or gay, and on and on. Many of us who identify with the church have rolled up our sleeves and waded into the battle with a far greater intensity than we have ever been gripped by the Great Commission. We have identified with our President’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” and seem fully convinced that in the process we will save Christianity from the onslaught of Islam and/or liberal-progressive ideologies.

At this point I’m not sure America CAN be saved and I am fully confident that true Christianity needs neither defense nor saving.

I have not written anything of late regarding these matters for a number of reasons, but mostly because I’m trying to wrap my head around what’s really happening; in the world, in the church, and in me. I still don’t have a completely firm grip on it yet except to say this:

It is a fool’s errand to attempt to reengineer culture in order make better men. The result is always tyranny. To pass laws regulating speech, forcing compliance to any ideology, stripping persons of the right to personal conscience, obliterating any right to hold contrary opinions, to silence any dissenting voice; to shame or humiliate any human being who stands in opposition to an idea is simply tyranny. It might be liberal tyranny or it might be conservative tyranny – it is tyranny nonetheless.  Some men are attempting precisely this; to redefine culture in an effort to make better (by their definition) humans.

On the other hand, changed men ALWAYS change culture and the gospel of Jesus Christ always changes men. As a follower of Jesus Christ I am less about changing the culture and more about bringing the life changing message of the gospel to men. In so doing, men are not subjugated to any imposed cultural standards, but set free to emulate the character of Christ, thereby elevating the culture.

Those of us who follow Christ must always seek to elevate the conversation, to hold ourselves diligently to a higher standard; a higher speech, a less strident tone. We must be ever careful as to not allow ourselves to be dragged to the level of the base and vulgar,  the meanness and perpetual anger. We are “seated with Christ in Heavenly places” and our warfare must be waged from that High and Holy Place. We must grasp that Jesus is seated on the Seat of Mercy and it is at this place that He invites us to sit with Him. We are not called by our Master to wage war with wicked men but to wage war FOR them; to battle spiritual wickedness, to engage principalities on behalf of men who have been blinded by the god of this world. Our calling is not to defeat sinners but to liberate them.

If we lose hope that this is possible, then we have abandoned hope in the gospel itself. If we choose to wage a different warfare, then we have turned to a lesser calling, even becomming the enemy of the very ones we have been called to reach.

Our enemy is cunning and crafty, always lurking in the shadows like an evil Puppet Master, always pulling the strings of men. As I have meditated on these matters during these weeks of relative silence I realize only now how often I have allowed myself to become entangled in the Puppet Master’s strings, allowing him to manipulate me into despising the ones I should be having compassion for and to wish for evil to befall those for whom I should be praying. I grieve that I so easily am fooled into believing I am fighting a holy cause while I am only being lured from the task to which Jesus has called me.

As Jesus sits at the Right Hand of the Father, He is seated upon the Mercy Seat – the Seat of Intercession and from that place Jesus intercedes for us; literally pleading for our lives. We are called to sit with Him in that Heavenly place. To do what? To intercede – to plead for the lives of those whose lives we most despise. We do not sit upon that exalted throne in Christ to call down fire, to spew words of death, or to pronounce vile curses. Rather we sit there with Him to speak life to those who are dead in their trespasses and sin that they might be delivered from death.  I wonder how many of us can disengage ourselves from the culture wars and reengage with the war for men’s souls. Though some differ with me on this, I don’t believe they are the same thing.

We just might “win” the culture wars only to find that while we were saving the culture we were ignorant of millions slipping into eternity without Christ, choosing rather to defeat our enemies than to plead for their lives.

This may not bother you, but it sure bothers me.

“. . . . speak evil of NO one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward ALL people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:2-7

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