Sunday, 14 June 2015

Hot? cold? or in between?

Jesus said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength... and your neighbour as yourself. Mark 12:30-31.

Because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16.

Nearly all my life I have been a keen supporter of Crystal Palace Football Club. (Some of my friends, I can't think why, seem to think this is rather amusing.)

Well, I say "keen", but I have to admit that perhaps that word isn't really right. If the mighty Palace win, yes, I am pleased. But if they lose, to be honest I tend to swallow my disappointment quite quickly, shrug my shoulders, and get on with life. I'm not, I suppose, a real fan. ("Fan", of course, is short for "fanatic" - and the real fan is the person who is absolutely over the moon when their team wins, and as sick as a parrot when they lose). I'm a bit lukewarm, really, if the truth is told.

Mind you, this isn't a lukewarmness I feel particularly guilty about. But I can’t say that of other areas of my life. Why? Because when it comes to things that really are important lukewarmness is a major fault.

No married person should be lukewarm about their marriage. None of us should be lukewarm about work or family. We shouldn't be lukewarm when it comes to helping those in need, or standing up for those who get a raw deal in life. We shouldn’t be lukewarm about honesty or other matters of personal morality. These things matter, really matter, and they deserve our wholehearted commitment.

And so it is with Jesus. The verses I have quoted, about loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, are what could be called "a big ask". And as for loving your neighbour as yourself - that too takes some doing. Have we ever seriously pondered what Jesus is asking of us?

And it isn't just Jesus. Paul tells us to "offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God" (Romans 12:1). As Christians we are called to be "perfect" - holy - "as our Father in heaven is holy" (Matthew 5:48). Only the very best is good enough.

It sounds a bit forbidding. Who can possibly measure up to this calling? But what we need to grasp is that it is this attitude towards life and to God which brings fulfilment and joy. An old hymn put it like this: “We never can prove/ The delights of God’s love/ Until all on the altar we lay.”

Go back to football. As a rather lukewarm fan I know very little of the despair some people feel when their team loses. Fair enough. But then... neither do I know anything of the ecstasy when they win. It's all a bit flat, really.

And so, again, it is with Jesus. The half-hearted Christian won't experience much of the struggle, the wrestling, the pain, the agony, of following Jesus, because he or she will just breeze along as comfortably as they can. But neither will they know anything of the joy, the pleasure, the delight, of prayer at last answered, of spiritual battles won, of perseverance in faith yielding lasting results. It's all a bit flat, really.

Somebody once put it like this: Many of us have just enough Christianity to make us miserable, but not enough to make us happy. To put it another way, we fall between two stools; we end up with the worst of both worlds.

When I was a teenage Christian I knew someone who had a favourite expression for the kind of disciple the Bible is talking about: such a person, he used to say, is "really on fire for God". That expression has stuck with me ever since. It may seem a bit corny, but in fact it is based on a New Testament expression, where we are told not to “put out the Spirit's fire" (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

So what about it? Just enough Christianity to spoil life, but not enough to enrich it? What a sad state for us to get ourselves into!

Lord God, you are worth the very best I can give. If over the years I have become careless and lukewarm in my love for you, please forgive me and help me to consecrate myself afresh, holding nothing back. Enable me to lay my life on your altar, truly a living sacrifice. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment