The war becomes apparent to me in many places. But it rarely seems to beset me in the ways that I've been warned about. "Read your Bible daily," they say. "Make sure you don't go watching any R-rated movies." "Don't cuss, Christians don't do that. Drink very little alcohol, and only in places where you can't be seen publicly. Better yet, don't drink at all. After all, we are to be set apart." How about "Attend church regularly. And be involved, because that means you're a mature Christian, fit for marriage, ministry, and a high profile among your peers."
Well that nails down holiness pretty well. Why did I ever bother with Jesus?
Warfare, it seems, is brought to my doorstep in a myriad lifestyles and ideologies that are perpetuated and even given birth within church walls. Moreso even than from a world steeped in sin. The super-spiritualized, Christian elite, I'm-righteous-because-I-belong-to-the-right-crowd, don't-you-want-a-life-that-looks-like-mine mindset is the stuff of cults and an evasion of the blood of Christ, to pull no punches.
So I am beset not, as they warned, by Wiccans, atheists, foreigners, and liberals, but instead by shopping malls demanding that I'm no good if I don't own the right stuff, a whitebread America that distills happiness to a bunch of circumstances dictated by prime-time TV, and pastors that tell me from the pulpit that I should never spend time with the "unsaved" except for the purpose of evangelism. The anti-gospel roams in the most everyday places. I will not condemn. Please Father, shelter me from my condemning heart.
The more I see, the more I grow in the conviction that that Bride of Christ has very little to do with the church. That when he comes again in glory to marry his Bride, and there will be a vast array of evangelists, Bible readers, celebrity preachers, pillars of moral standing, church icons, Christian writers, actors, and musicians, and missionaries who will be left wondering "who was that?" because their vision of Jesus was actually a vision of themselves. And there will be a huge contingent of rejected, addicted, hated on, ignored, freaky, unBiblical, unChristian, unreligious, unspiritual people who will rejoice because the one they didn't even realize they wanted has finally come.
To quote Brennan Manning, He will ask one question and one question only to each of us in that day: "Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?" Believers will respond "yes, I believed and I tried to shape my life as a response to that love."
But many will have to say, though having heard and preached many sermons on the subject: "well frankly no, sir, I never really believed it....I thought it was a just a way of speaking, a kindly lie, some Christian's pious pat on the back to cheer me on."
It is never, ever: God's love, and...
Time to die, Church. Time to die without qualification, without expectation, and without your eyes on the promise of status and reward. Die to it now, or you will perish with it then.