Wednesday, October 21, 2015

No deeper call

There is no deeper call than the call of Jesus Christ, but for many Christians it’s not to their liking. Sometimes I’ve spoken about it to a brother in Christ, maybe someone I worked with who claimed to be a Christian, and in less than thirty seconds, I could see his eyelids start to close, he’d remained silent, rousing himself a moment later when I paused to give me his verbal affirmation. By the tone of his voice, I could see that his heart was set on other things. That Christ should be ‘in our midst’ at every moment, in each encounter with one another (and with Him) is too much. Though we repeat, ‘where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them,’ we do our best to ignore Him. His very presence is always a renewal of His call. We secretly protest, ‘We’ve made our confession of faith in You, Lord! Now, please bless us and leave us alone!’

It’s not the end of the world, nor have we apostatized, when we treat Him this way. It’s just proof that the ‘old man’ is still alive and active in us. The ‘new man’ hasn’t really been born in us yet, even when we say we’ve been baptized and ‘born again.’ We’re still just catechumens, ‘those under instruction,’ but no amount of sitting around in retreats and seminars is going to qualify us, not until we’ve decided to make discipleship our goal. It’s true, Christ came to seek and save the lost—yes, all of them, that huge swarm of palm-waving worshipers—yet, He tells us nevertheless, ‘strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’ What can He possibly mean by this? Does He know that after He has fed us in our multitudes one more time, we will forget what He has done, and join in the hue and cry to crucify Him, except for one or two?

The Russian neo-martyr (no he wasn’t put to death, but endured life in almost perpetual persecution) Sergei Fudel writes, ‘When the circle draws to its close, there will remain on earth, unconquered, the two or three holy ones, the Church of Christ; and the light of their holiness will be too strong for human history. This will be the end of history. These unconquerable two or three will show that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Will of God are fulfilled in them on earth as in heaven and that all of humanity could have been such as they.’ I don’t think that Sergei Fudel really believed that at the close of the present age the membership of the Church will have shrunk back to just two or three people—at least, I hope not!—but it is easy to see how Christianity could divert itself from its Source, the Resurrection and the Life, that is, Jesus Christ, and while ‘confessing’ His Name, deny Him.

I am not here speaking of the abandonment of ‘traditional’ Church teaching and practices, but rather of an existential divide between those who know and follow Christ, and those who follow programs and devices of their own making. The possibility is always there for us to become Muslims, Jews, antichrists without recognizing it, because in our human frailty we name ‘Christian’ anything we have decided to believe in. That’s how religion has become a form of protection against God for so many. How can we avoid this for ourselves? The answer is so obvious that if we find it quickly and persist in keeping it, some of us are labeled closet Protestants. Though the Bible is not to be worshiped or hammered into weaponry to punish those who differ from us, it is to be venerated, loved, studied incessantly, and assiduously incarnated. In this way, we fulfill Christ’s word, ‘You are the light of the world.’

There is no deeper call.

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