• Standing GuardStill on this story about Jonathan and his sidekick . . .

    I relate to the soldiers in Saul’s camp. They weren’t disobeying orders, cowering in fear, or avoiding duty. As they circled then slept, they were doing what soldiers do, looking like soldiers look—working that war groove.

    That’s the church-style Christianity I’ve always lived, dressing the part for services, saying the right things to the right people—participating. I’ve even had burdens for people or ministries and prayed and fasted and given money to help them. I’ve tagged along with my parents or other spiritual leaders to homeless ministries and nursing homes, even though it freaked me out. I thought I was scoring heaven points—my combat pay. The more uncomfortable I felt, the more the points.

    Ironically, that creates a sense of safety. Battling the outskirts of the enemy, tagging along with the courageous out of quiet compulsion. If I suffer with the brave, I am counted with them. It matters little if I fall with the front line or the middle. I was there.

    That participate-in-containment strategy probably wouldn’t have worked for the Hebrews any better than it did for Hitler-era Europe. We’ll never know, because Jonathan cared more about his father’s kingdom than his own.

    I struggle with that. I want to do my spiritual doin’s and maintain my comfortable kingdom. I want to syncretize God’s approval onto my life by meeting public criteria for what my life should look like. Like the Hindus and Muslims . . . if I do enough uncomfortable things, I can live—pretty much—the way I want the rest of the time. And I’m the one who can pick (like the various sects of Amish and Independent Baptist) my maintainable ratio of discomfort to holiness.

    The fundamentalism in which I was reared helped me feel holier—and thereby eternally safer—the more things on the checklist I completed. If you can’t compare yourselves to others by numbers (as preachers and missionaries so bent do), then I can fall back on Jeremiah and the whole, “God grants the results” gig.

    And while it’s true that God doesn’t compare hearts by numbers, he does covet more from us than compliance to an artificial Christian brand. He called the Pharisee’s on it all the time, even dropped the “whited sepulchers” hammer on them.

    In our assigned reading in James, I wanted to avoid that verse about the widows and orphans. I knew it was there before I even started reading. The impending friction of the Bible’s definition of true religion loomed at the end of the chapter.

    “Where do I drop off the Angel Tree box?” I don’t want to have the needy over for Christmas. I want to find the fun service venues, like the graphic design team at Blue Ridge—not the hospital wards. I want to mail my effort in.

    But Jonathan by example and James by epistle convict my selfishness. They give no points for the motions, the intentions, or the penance. God doesn’t let me buy my way out of the draft, claim easy purple hearts, or choose my assignments.

    I can’t be ceremoniously married to Christ like an arranged political marriage. I can’t fake my way through my battles, my destiny, or the formation of my character. This has to be real, intrinsic, even primal.

    Or as we’ve been coining it, barbaric Christianity.

    This entry was posted on Friday, April 28th, 2006 at 11:00 pm and is filed under Ponderlust. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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