I enjoy reading website, RealClearReligion.org, and a recent post, and its subsequent comments showed me what Paul meant when he warned the Ephesians church times were coming when folks’ itching ears hardened their hearts to sound preaching – and godly living. (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Paul saw what was going on in 1st Rome, and I see America in the 21st century, and nothing much has changed in the public arena of promoting our religion.
What’s changed over two millenniums or more are all the people who met Christ through the preaching and practice of His followers. Truth be told, however, as Mark Osler reminds us in Christianity Without Arrogance Christians’ arrogance may be the reason others back away from Christ, preferring to follow their own path of spirituality.
Talking too much and loving too little.
How to make a proper introduction to the living God in times where so many gods compete for our affection and loyalty is one thing – living out everything I’ve commended is another. One part of me wants others to know that peace of God that passes understanding – to have hope – to be set free from the bondage. Another side of me just wants people to straighten up and fly right because I am so done with their drama! And another part of me just wants to be able to keep doing the little harmless things I love doing and really aren’t so terrible.
So, can I minimize the appearance or reality of arrogance? Mark Osler makes helpful suggestions – and they reminded me of how Agatha Christie described a powerful Christian witness that she heard early on, and it remained with her all her life. She could not recall the name of the teacher, but her lesson when Agatha Christie was young, never left her. Agatha Christie wrote:
She was short and spare, and I remember her eager jutting chin. Quite unexpectedly one day (in the middle, I thing of an arithmetic class) she suddenly launched forth on a speech on life and religion.
‘All of you,’ she said, ‘every one of you — will pass through a time of despair. If you never face despair, you will never have faced or become a Christian, or known a Christian life. To be a Christian, you must face and accept the life that Christ faced and lived; you must enjoy things as he enjoyed them; be as happy as he was at the marriage at Cana, know the peace and happiness that it means to be in harmony with God and with God's will. But you must also know as he did, what it means to be alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, to feel that all your friends have forsaken you.Hold on then to the belief that is not the end. If you love you will suffer, and if you do not suffer you do not know the meaning of the Christian life.’
She then returned to the problems of compound interest with her usual vigor, but it is odd that those words, more than any sermon I have ever heard, remained with me, and years later they were to come back to me and give me hope at a time when despair had me in its grip.
This passage has been a goad – reminding me that the conviction, passion, of our faith in Christ can drive truth home to hearts in ways we may never fully know – this unnamed woman spoke from her heart, a reality of living the Gospel. In times of tears, this is not the end – anymore than the most joyful moments, all there is to the grand life.