(And Why We Should Even Want to Enter the Church)
“Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. ... It may be that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal and that you are a paralytic.” ― G.K. Chesterton
This quotation struck me and serves as a backdrop for the rest of what I say here. As I view our current cultural melee: the quotations, tweets, television shows, required (or at least recommended) readings in schools, fashion? trends, newscasts, etc. it occurs to me that Chesterton was truly on to something a century ago. The barrage of sexual innuendo, accepted profanity in all forms of media, and overall crudeness in public interchanges, should make right-thinking people blush. But it doesn’t. We are all worn down to the point that we tolerate and even find ourselves (whoever we are) acquiescing and even participating. Some of this comes from external affront, but other parts come from our own itching ears. When this is coupled with inadequately trained defenses—and/or the ability to articulate right thinking with isolation and improper associations—it is all too easy to lose the capacity to blush.
We are all conformed—to a significant extent—to the types of information we consume. It is impractical (and somewhat unwise) to be totally isolated from what is going on around us. But that doesn’t give us a warrant for unbridled indiscriminate consumption. Information about the world around is useful, and it is difficult to counter ideas or content with which one lacks at least a passing familiarity. But how to effectively do this, in steps the body of believers, the church:
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16
Jesus here is giving marching orders to his seasoned followers, the disciples who had spent 3 years with Him. The characteristic of innocence—the way they are instructed to initiate engagement—is explicitly coupled with wisdom and shrewdness (the knowledge of how/when to engage). In the following verses (17–20) Jesus warns about what they (we) are up against, and the near-term results (persecution). But what may be missed is the preparation and training that preceded this commissioning: Jesus spent time with them, listened to their concerns, consoled and confronted their doubts, and instructed them, thereby revealing Himself. They were in community with Him.
Because of that, though they all deserted him upon His arrest, they were able to see the bankruptcy of the agenda of those (especially the political/spiritual establishment) around them. And they were the instruments Jesus used to establish His church, that bastion against the "spirit of the age”.
Today, we too must be so equipped. God help us!
This is not just rhetoric, it is an actual plea with promise. God is here to help us: Through His word, through prayer, and through more committed association with others who desire to be like-minded. This is yet another description of the validity and healing promise of association with spiritually minded people, bound together for a holy purpose—the church—rooted in God’s love and his commandments.
The church, properly functioning, is a place of forgiveness, mercy, grace, healing, and instruction. A place of encouragement and equipping. A base for commissioning. It is the last best hope. It is an integral part of plan A, and there is no plan B. It is the place where we can again learn to blush, raise children in innocence, offer a haven for the aged, and regularly encourage and admonish one another. By doing this well we fulfill our primary purpose: To honor, love, obey, trust, and follow our Lord Jesus.
Chesterton was onto something and our fellowshipping body the church will help us be that “vital and lively animal”.