Raped. Murdered. Betrayed. Robbed. Cheated.
These are past-tense verbs that describe horrific actions.
These are also impossible to permanently apply to a Christian.
Can a Christian be murdered? No. Raped? No. Robbed? Betrayed? Insert your sin here. Really, it doesn’t matter what it is.
And some of you might be sharpening your pitchforks but I need you to see something and really engage this line of thinking for a moment.
But first, let’s talk about immigration, because I need more kindling around my feet.
I watched the 84 Lumber ad that was so controversial. From a marketing standpoint, it’s absolutely brilliant. 100% got me. It should be required study for those in pursuit of marketing that makes an impact. But what occurred to me in the whole of the immigration debate is a rather unusual set of assumptions.
I am against building a wall. I am also against 100% open national borders. I am for healthy, logical, and wise immigration law that helps immigrants and refugees and provides a reasonable amount of national security. And one of the stances that irks me is the idea that immigrants are coming to America to “steal” from Americans. That their presence here is to somehow increase the criminality of our nation. It irks me on two fronts.
- People are sinful regardless of where they are born.
- For the Christian, and the bulk of America still dares call themselves that, you can’t do anything to us.
What crime can be permanently committed to a Christian? If I am immortal, as the bible tells me, then this life and all its trouble, are a phase I will one day grow out of. If you steal my car? Well, it wasn’t my car if it was a gift from God. It was just a car He let me use. If you take my job and give it to someone from another country? It wasn’t my job was it? It was just a job that Jesus let me work for a while. If you take my life? I. Have. No. Life.
Can you hurt me in all those ways? Yes. Yes. Yes.
I can cry and weep and crumble and believe that life is over because of how much pain I feel as a result of those things. But there is a bigger reality I am working with. The bible gives me a breathtaking lack of finality in all my sufferings. They can occur, but they cannot define me. I have been abused by people, but I have not been, also. Who I am is defined by my joyfully slavish devotion to Jesus Christ. Not by the suffering He allows to come. Paul described his sufferings in an interesting way.
2 Corinthians 11:23-28
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (ESV)
Did he ever say, “And this is who I am now,”? No. Paul says he is a servant of Jesus. He never said, “It’s the fault of these dirty Jews or Gentiles.” In fact, he goes out of his way to say, “I am a better one.” A better what? A better servant of Christ. Why? Because of all that horrendous stuff he suffered. He says earlier in that letter that he despaired of life itself. And in one of my favorite places,
2 Corinthians 4:11-12
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (ESV)
Do you see it? Do you see the lack of finality? The fragility of suffering when compared to what really matters? Paul does talk like a madman and I want to echo it. I want to boast in weakness. I want to boast in the loss of all in pursuit of Jesus. So now let me leave this post with what I like to think of as a manifesto for the “All In” Christianity I am speaking of.
When John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) was brought before the empress Eudoxia, she threatened him with banishment if he insisted on his Christian independence as a preacher.
“You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father’s house.”
“But I will kill you,” said the empress.
“No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,” said John.
“I will take away your treasures.”
“No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there.”
“But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left.”
“No, you cannot, for I have a Friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me. I defy you, for there is nothing you can do to harm me.”