I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters lately and I am continually floored by Lewis’ insights into the human condition via his fictional senior demon’s advice to his nephew, the junior tempter Wormwood. This quote particularly grabbed me recently:
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Much has been said about the state of the American church and our propensity to be distracted, allured to affluence, or encouraged toward various forms of debauchery, but perhaps the greatest threat is modern American Christianity’s inclination toward inactivity. Unfortunately, pew-sitting has been encouraged and promoted by far too many pastors without emphasis on the true calling of the gospel to go – carry your cross and make disciples. Because of this, “church culture” has entered a lull that does not produce bold followers of Jesus but rather lukewarm spectators. Dull faith is a painful thing to both watch and experience, but perhaps the most grievous part may not be the Christian’s personal spirituality as much as the lost people of the Christian’s context.
Screwtape advises Wormwood to set his “patient” not on a trajectory of wild sin and habitual immorality, but to a pointless life that leads to the ultimate end of apathetic belief or no belief at all. Truthfully, most people are willing to settle for the standard moral posture of being “better than that guy” while maintaining a safe distance from conviction from God or anything that may challenge their worldview or self-built justification. And while Christians sit by and watch, non-believers are robotically drudging through life without any milestones, without any signposts.
The gospel is too epic and beautiful to bury within ourselves. While our family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers play cat and mouse with fantasies of karma and subjective ideals, we must put in work for the Kingdom. We must be aware of the amazing grace that saved us and let that awe for God drive us into the world. Paul is clear:
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all,that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- 2 Cor. 5:11-21
Notice how Paul is even willing to be considered a lunatic – indeed we could call him a gospel lunatic – because the love of Christ so controls him. We have been reconciled, and this reconciliation leads to only one logical conclusion: that we extend such a great hope to others. Through reconciliation with God, we become by nature ministers of reconciliation. God has chosen, for reasons beyond our comprehension, to use us as his ambassadors. We must cry out with Paul, “You can call us lunatics, but it is for God’s sake!” The message of Christ is not just cultural but anti-cultural, and this will inevitably lead to perceived craziness by some. Do not be the weird Ned Flanders Christian, but do be aware that the more like Christ you are, the more distinctive your life will be perceived by others.
Work, study, serve, love, and forgive like a lunatic. May we not allow the world to settle for the mundane, but show and offer them the greatest party that is beginning on earth and will carry on into eternity.