Audio version read by the author travelers-ss-12-10-20-1.mp3
Learning to live in another country requires study, practice, and determination. Things you do in your home without a thought could highly offend in another culture. Learning the language can seem almost insurmountable, and the customs counterintuitive. One’s mindset and preparations will make all the difference for the experience of the traveler. A pleasant and successful journey depends on it.
I wonder if as believers we are really convinced that our involvement in this disintegrating world is temporary. Without that conviction we could easily build a house made of sticks or straw. Our intention is revealed by our action. If our citizenship is truly in a world where love (the kind that sacrifices preference and comfort), forgiveness, mercy and selflessness rule, shouldn’t our lives reflect efforts to learn such heart response to brokenness? Is our money consumed by entertaining ourselves, feathering our nests, increasing our status, or is it shared with those who are in need? Are there people we avoid because they annoy or embarrass us? Do we use our time primarily for our pleasures and necessities, or do we spend it on others? Is the driving consideration in our thinking “What do I want?” or is the reflex “What does God want?”? Is our life so full of correct Bible doctrine that we can justify any choice we make, or does the doctrine compel us to live for God and others?
Lots of questions – by now we probably have some guilt – not my purpose. This is a pop quiz. There will be a final test! We say we are “Christians” – Christ followers – yet we cheat at work, cheat at marriage, and cheat at justice. Perhaps we are suffering from a pleasant delusion that having said the “sinner’s prayer”, everlasting glory awaits and we are exempt from ‘legalistic’ demands for holiness. That seems to be a flimsy hope for a person with a flimsy god. Or maybe the preference is moralism in order to keep God at bay, serving a cause or doctrine instead of a Person. There are several culturally condoned choices that will merit social applause even if God may prefer a less popular path for us. The snare to be validated by man’s approval rather than by Christ lurks in the recesses of our fickle hearts. Appearances can deceive even ourselves if we do not allow God access to search and deliver us from ‘dead works’. Oswald Chambers nails it: “The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.” Allowing God to direct our work for Him is like learning foreign customs – counterintuitive and uncomfortable. Jesus promises that eventually motives will be known and announced as kingdom rule is instituted. Seductive moralism or worldliness can be exposed and rejected now by a heart renewed, chastened, and surrendered rather than later when it is too late.
The Great Divorce (CS Lewis) illustrates this vividly. “The narrator (who is Lewis himself), in a dream, boards a bus on a rainy afternoon and embarks on a journey through hell to heaven. The narrator meets a host of supernatural beings in heaven that engage in discussion with those visitors from hell, most of whom, through their own choices, prefer to reign in hell than to serve in heaven. These ghosts, these wisps of men proudly head back to the bus and await their return to hell.” (Paul Gould) Many are terrified as they first leave the bus and find (among other things) the grass piercing their feet as they walk because they are not solid people. They weren’t prepared for this world, although they were curious enough to make the trip. One inference – future prospects demand power over present pursuits.
Let’s look at the guy we follow. He sought direction from Someone else every day, letting Someone else decide how He spent His time and energy. How He suffered. How He prayed. He hung out with even the ‘deplorables’ of His day, and undertook the training of some highly unqualified and obtuse individuals. The Person we idolize was more than just a great moral advisor. He was an enigma, and He would have offended our cultural sensitivities just like He did the Pharisees and the Romans, the religious and the political. It was the common people who heard Him gladly. Are we common enough to listen? He made room for the outcast, the failures, the socially reprehensible and built a kingdom around them. He treasured the soul as eternal and treated the body appropriately as a temporary transport. He bids us to learn that perspective, especially with our brethren, our fellow travelers, the other misfits who have chosen to entrust their present life as well as the future to Him.
So let’s ask ourselves if we passed the pop quiz, or are there areas we need to master before the final test? Is it how we use our time, our condescending attitudes, our selfish use of God given resources, our addiction to affirmation, neglect of learning at the Master’s feet? Whatever our lack, there is a remedy readily available if we are humble enough to take it. “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-2 Message
Still great advice!