The silent killer! Yes, it is the “c” word, a dreaded diagnosis that we all should fear – not the cancer that kills the body, but complacency, the deadly destroyer of our souls. This is not something I made up. It comes from ancient wisdom, the Proverbs of Solomon. He does say that the complacency of fools will kill them, but contextually it is even more emphatic and it’s right off the bat in the first proverb. Proverbs 1:31-32 “So they will eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the waywardness of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.” It seems that currently we are still like those who, so many centuries ago, thought it best to do whatever they wanted, to set up their own ideas of right and wrong. We obviously have not evolved past the basic flaws that brought them down, mindsets that animalize and subjugate while promising freedom. Instead we have doubled down on them. The tyrant of “ME” still rules and is given even more credence, celebrated by media and demanded by cultural convention. “Us’ takes a backseat to “Me”, undercutting the fabric of human cohesion. Solomon’s later admonition “Before every person lies a road that seems to be right, but the end of that road is death and destruction” (Proverbs 14:12 Voice) still applies. Wide road (destruction), narrow path (life) comes to mind. (Jesus) Yet apathy prevails!
The petri dish for the ‘meh’ attitude is the addiction of wanting our own way, putting our heads in the sand and ignoring reality. It is not, however, an accidental lifestyle. “SO’ is the first word in that quotation from Proverbs 1. Why do they eat the fruit of their own way, why are they filled with their own devices, steeped in self-justification and indifference to their destiny? Verse 29 tells us “They hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would not accept my counsel and spurned all my reproof. So….” We know the rest – waywardness kills, complacency destroys.
We here enjoy a world view that embraces individualism. In other cultures family or societal constructs determine behavior. We are liberated, and thankfully so in many ways. But like any good thing excess is destructive. Too much emphasis on the individual weakens the society. But for us it is even worse. We have bought into the idea that no one, not even God, can tell us what is right or wrong. That is deemed archaic and repressive, and anyone who dares to challenge our perception of reality is a hater. The truth does not set us free, it makes us flee (Dallas Willard).
I submit that the One Who created us, delicately interweaving our psyches, spirits and bodies together, the One Who put eternity into our hearts, is eminently qualified to call the shots in our lives. He desires our flourishing. He does not need the robotic mindless obedience of our our puny species. Remember how Jesus taught us to pray that the Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven? He has countless spiritual beings who wait on His every word. Why He messes with us is a mystery! I guess more than anything else in all of the cosmos we humans can demonstrate that He is indeed love!! He pursues us rebels to turn us into friends!
We are all on a path and there are options. We are not forced to follow the way of life. We have been dignified with the honor of choice. The hater of our very existence knows that full well and is poised ready to steal, kill, destroy – AND misdirect. I have been recently reminded by the incredible imagination of CS Lewis in his space trilogy that this little stint on earth is our opportunity to be part of something beyond description – either stupendous or horrifying. We squander the opportunity at our peril. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, only to embrace so great a perdition? That latter choice of spiritual dismissiveness is made on the wings of intellectual superiority, human autonomy, the lie cloaked in superlatives of licentious liberation, sublime self-realization and total transcendence. The result of believing it brings disaster to the soul – corruption, isolation, disintegration, sorrow, regret, loathing, loss, untold horror. (Side note – Lewis’ description of the afterlife on the not so good side in Perelandra chapter 13 – from the demonically possessed Weston’s perspective – will light a fire under you in case you are wavering.)
Rationality demands that we reexamine our own roadmap, and invite those we encounter to reconsider their trajectory. Review our journey and check its destination. Jesus is the way and any other route is thieving and robbery (His words, not mine). It’s not too late to make a course alteration. There is a navigation system sure to bring us to glory. ‘Recalculating’ may be in order. And good news – the killing complacency is not the end of that passage in Proverbs. Verse 32 says “But he who listens to me shall dwell in safety, secure from the fear of evil.” “He who has ears to hear let him hear.”(Jesus)
Bonus thoughts: This arrived at my inbox this morning – a lovely encouragement from Mr. Willard
Nothing less than life in the steps of Christ is adequate to the human soul or the needs of our world. Any other offer fails to do justice to the drama of human redemption, deprives the hearer of life’s greatest opportunity, and abandons this present life to the evil powers of the age. The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane. It is to see, in Helmut Thielicke’s words, that “the Christian stands, not under the dictatorship of a legalistic ‘You ought,’ but in the magnetic field of Christian freedom, under the empowering of the ‘You may.’”
From The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship