“One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”- C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock)
Last week we had the joy of being reunited with an old friend. During our four years as a family in Asia, she had prayed and served with us, babysat our children (she was there the terrible day Isaac was lost after the earthquake), helped us with translation and various culture struggles, and shared the joys and trials of daily life with us. It was fun to meet her husband and encouraging to hear some of what God has done in her life over the past six years.
In the midst of all of our catching up, I asked her what has surprised her most about life in America. I frequently ask this question and I normally hear about the large size of our houses, the lack of public transportation, the abundance of space, trees, and squirrels, and the questionable quality of what we call Chinese food, but she astounded me when she said, “I finally know what a lukewarm Christian is.”
On surface level, the analogy seems strange in a culture where they prefer to drink water at a lukewarm temperature and it seems even stranger when the deeper meaning is explained within a culture where there is little earthly advantage to becoming a believer. When the costs to following Christ might include persecution, rejection from friends and family, or job termination, and almost certainly will include worshipping in cramped spaces, with limited resources, and inconvenient circumstances, you tend to be all in or all out.
My kids have been reading missionary biographies lately. We ordered some chapter books and some shorter texts geared more for younger elementary children. Even simplified (some even told in rhyme), their lives are astounding and divisive. After reading about Jim Eliot who famously wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose,” and later was murdered by the people he came to serve, and his wife, Elisabeth, who went back to share with those same people, Maggie asked me, “Would you forgive someone who killed Dad and want them to know Jesus?” Wow. Although I first wondered whether or not this whole missionary biography thing was a good idea, I was thankful for the conversation that followed about the power of the gospel and eternity.
Either it’s true or it’s not. Either I was an enemy of God, lost in sin, doomed for destruction, and I was rescued, cleansed, and made an heir with Christ, given a glorious inheritance that will never fade, or I was not. Either I have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit living and working in me or I don’t. Either eternity is real or it’s not. Either everyone around me has an eternal destination or they don’t. Either God is worthy of all my praise and my life or he isn’t. Contrary to American conventional wisdom, I don’t think it’s helpful to me if it’s all a farce. It certainly didn’t bring earthly success to Jim Elliot or Paul (1 Corinthian 15:19) or the millions of believers through out history persecuted for their faith. Yet, if it is real (and my conviction grows daily that it is), then the final word in all of these stories is not tragedy, but ultimate victory.
It can be difficult to stay “hot” for God, to keep him as the first in my soul (Revelation 2:4), and to remember I am in a “struggle is not against flesh and blood.” (Ephesians 6:12). I am thankful for mercy in the battle, gracious reminders, and dear friends.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”-Revelation 3:15-16