It was bedtime and I was snuggling with my son, a nightly ritual I look forward to. Lying side-by-side on our backs we looked expectantly at the bare plywood of the bunk bed above us. Any given night and we will be finding patterns in the grains or the wood or exchanging silly stories, but it was one of those nights, my parental radar alerted me it was time for the mom reminder.
Often I tell him, and his sister, that he can tell me anything, even if he thinks it will be upsetting to me because nothing will change the love I have for him and I want to know. The whirring of the whole-house fan sucked in the silence and my son spoke, “Mom, sometimes I’m afraid to tell people about Jesus.” BAM! Caught off guard just like that. What prompted him to utter those words, I’m uncertain, but how true those words are for most American Christians today including myself.
Garble came out of my mouth that went something like this, “I know what you mean.” Don’t you? I find the command to evangelize terrifying, but it isn’t an option. Jesus didn’t die on the cross like a hippie being martyred for a passionate belief, “You know man, it’s cool. Theses dudes just don’t understand. It’s all good No worries.”
He lived boldly, lovingly and His mission statement was clear: I AM.
I find my wilting body uncomfortable with the idea of making the same cut-and-dry statement Jesus made.
I’m afraid of being cast aside as a fanatic.
I’m afraid of being perceived as uneducated.
I don’t like being called a bigot because I disagree.
Ultimately, I’m afraid of not fitting in and I do no service to my Savior when I value acceptance and comfort more than pleasing my Savior.
Each of the seven churches bears a different resemblance to American Christians, but the church in Pergamos embodies the struggle of the American church. Jesus begins by commending the church for their works and holding fast to His name (though the Christians of Pergamos faced death for their affiliation with Jesus). American Christians know how to work in the Lord’s name. Truly, American Christians often fight for the justice and equality of all people. When disaster strikes, churches are quick to aid families and communities. In the name of Christ, churches reach around the world to the less fortunate. No doubt we know how to work. (Similar to the lost love of the church of Ephesus, Christians work in the name of goodness, not God, but that’s a side dish to today’s entrée.) We work without love, passion our guide to success.
The church in Pergamos had works aced, but they were uncertain, insecure and weak. Believers within the church were causing others to stumble and flat-out sin because they held onto counter-Christian doctrine. Wouldn’t it be nice if we couldn’t relate? Like Pergamos, American Christians are trying to please everyone and finding themselves caught in the middle. Summarizing the sin of Pergamos is like looking at America: Sacrificing to idols, sexual immorality, holding to false doctrines.
Worship of trends (clothes, no roots to our constantly changing hair color, the latest tech gadgets…), knowledge (earning advanced degrees, knowing the latest local/celebrity gossip, being well versed on current events thanks to NPR…), and self (social media obsession, need to photograph, share and receive positive feedback on our lives from those we have collected as friends) are a sampling of American idols. We have clout, but we won’t speak simple and wise biblical truths because we’re afraid we’ll hurt, offend and be labeled no fun. Nothing will change without change in our hearts.
Sexually the American church dances around the issues. Apparently the conviction to obey God isn’t enough for the average American Christian because most engage in sex before marriage despite clear teaching otherwise (talk about healthcare reform if people simply obeyed. No STD’s, reduction in unwanted pregnancies, reduction in psychological issues…). Beyond the physical act of sex, gratuitous sex is prevalent in movies, television shows, music and effortlessly available at the checkout stand in are they wearing clothes women on magazine covers and the church of America sits on the sidelines, often as casual participants, ultimately because we don’t want to stand out. We huddle murmuring under in the proverbial corner wondering when it will be over, when those people will stop, but the noise grows louder. When will we choose to stand confidently and say like Jesus, “enough”? But we won’t speak simple and wise biblical truths because we’re afraid we’ll hurt, offend and labeled no fun. Nothing will change without change in our hearts.
I wonder if any other country wants to bridge the gap more than America. The world is like a great divorce, America the bastard child constantly attempting to get its parents back together. We believe we can make a difference in other countries through the gospel of democracy, by tediously recycling every item we use, by spreading wealth, by forcing people to be accepting of others or our ways. Truly, I don’t believe there is any other country that believes like America: We can make a difference. That belief has fused to the American church and the problem is, most aren’t checking their bible to see if their beliefs are right and true. There’s no point in believing a protein bar from the health food store is going to fix a chocolate craving and there’s no point to believing we can fix an economy or bring peace to our diversity when it doesn’t align with the bible. But we won’t speak simple and wise biblical truths because we’re afraid we’ll hurt, offend and be labeled no fun. Nothing will change without change in our hearts.
We don’t want to call sin by its name because we don’t want to do it in a “wrong way” and make people feel bad…
We don’t want to point out sin because we’re participants…therefore we run from hypocrisy…
We don’t want to callout sin because it means engaging and that’s uncomfortable…
We don’t want to rebuke sin because we want to blend in…
Can we call ourselves Christians if we don’t want to act in Christian ways?