M. K. Nawojski
27 April 2001
When compared to the countless ranks of "Christians" in the world - the number I have had personal contact with, through the years, is miniscule. I find it intriguing, therefore, that the perspectives of both groups - as expressed in their speech and writing - can be seen to fall, almost without exception, into three major divisions. I'd like to introduce the characteristics of these "three ranks of professing Christians" for a closer examination.
First, there's the Christian who evidences no interest in sweating out the myriad of sometimes obscure detail which is necessary to a correct and/or full understanding of a given passage of Scripture or a corollary doctrine. This person will tell you without hesitation that he's just happy to know salvation has been provided and his eternal state is "assured," i.e., when this life has ended, he will reach a destination "somehow, somewhere, sometime" which is also inhabited by Christ, and that - after all - is what really matters. Amazingly, those holding this position seem to feel that it demonstrates a total or primary focus on Christ which is most spiritual and desirable.
I myself find it remarkable that individuals professing the name of Christ would wish others to know they hold this position at all - much less that they promote it as the higher and more spiritual path. In no other realm but "religion" would such rationale be allowed. Let me explain what I mean via the following example: imagine that a husband (because his native land has been infiltrated and taken over by his enemies) has traveled to a distant country, leaving his wife to close out his affairs in his "old" neighborhood and to join him at the appropriate time. He has arranged for his salary to be automatically deposited into a designated bank. He sends detailed letters directing how the money is to be spent; how the affairs of the family are to be appropriately settled; what preparations the wife must undertake for her upcoming journey; and what climate, terrain, living accommodations, and associates she will encounter (as well as what she can expect her own social/political/administrative position to be ) when she arrives at her destination and is reunited with him. Then imagine that the wife displays no interest at all in her husband's arrangements and communications, except in the fact that his paycheck is being regularly deposited in the bank (i.e., she rejoices in the fact that her needs are met but has no drive/desire to understand anything of her husband's plans otherwise). She does not try to interpret and act on the explicit but, at times, complex and massive instruction that he sends. She takes no steps to disengage herself from her current situation and makes no preparation toward relocating. She has no interest in the place where *he* now resides and where *she* will shortly be living. In fact, she's often heard to express the sentiment that nothing matters to her in the whole business of relocating/transitioning except the fact that she will be with him.
Which of us would give credence to the proposition - not to say the barest possibility! - that this wife's primary focus is her husband and that she's exhibiting a "higher" love for him? Or would we all agree that her focus is manifestly herself and her immediate circumstances - and that she cares for the husband only as the mechanism through which her needs/wishes are met.
Second, there's the Christian who evidences a general interest in what the Bible says but does not interpret passages "literally" when such interpretation would compel him to move outside the comfort of mainstream Christianity and assume the position of the "fool" (I Cor. 1:18-31).
Is this attitude really any better than the one previously depicted? Let's modify the earlier example to fit this mindset and see. Start by imagining the same scenario, i.e., a husband (because his native land has been infiltrated and taken over by his enemies) has traveled to a distant country, leaving his wife to close out his affairs in the old neighborhood and to join him at the appropriate time. Assume that his behavior is the same as that of the husband mentioned in the first example. This time, however, understand that his wife reads and /or skims most of his incoming communication with some interest but - because of the complexity of certain parts of his letters; the arduous labor required to reach a full and clear understanding of his words; and the discomfort, awkwardness, and/or humiliation that would ensue if she complied with the whole of his correspondence - she interprets/transforms his instructions to enhance her easygoing and comfortable life, her neighbors' good will, and her standing in the community. For example, if the husband writes, "You must sell the house and dispose of its contents as quickly as possible, pack your clothes, and be waiting at [intricate directions to difficult-to-reach location], at 9:00 a.m., on such-and-such a date" - she reasons within herself: "He has no way to know what's happened to the real estate market since his departure - if he did, he wouldn't ask me to do this - so his instructions here don't actually apply. And I just know he loves me too much to expect me to get rid of my antique dishes and flatware - so that part of his letter must be interpreted to mean that I'm not to draw negative attention to myself by making a vainglorious display of these things - which, being a proper wife, I will carefully obey. Also, although the part about packing my clothes and placing myself at the assigned location for "pickup" at the designated time seems pretty clear - still, the other wives have assured me that this is to be understood to mean that I must, through a consecrated time of meditation, fill my heart with such affection and love that I would be willing at any time to be picked up and carried to the far country where my husband now resides. The consensus of all these other dedicated women cannot be wrong, so I must simply lay aside my doubts and begin the meditation forthwith. Truly, it will be an easy job in my case, because my dear husband has so many wonderful attributes that I can fill numberless hours without ever enumerating the whole of them."
Any "takers" on the bet that this attitude exhibits a more authentic love for (or interest in) the husband? Or would we all agree that the wife's perspective in this modified example is only slightly improved over the first and that her behavior, too, manifests a scarcely veiled focus on her own needs and wishes - to the ultimate nullification/cancellation of her husband's instructions.
Finally, there's the Christian who evinces an intense interest in the Scriptures and who gladly invests time poring over each jot and tittle - to discern exactly which "holy man of old" was speaking or writing in a particular portion of text (and when it was written), who the man of God was speaking or writing to, what the historical setting of his message was, what household law was in force at the time, and what each of his words signified.
This individual may be temporarily distracted or slowed but he will not be permanently halted from the perusal, comprehension, and application of the Scriptures - regardless of what "sticks," "stones," "innuendoes," "ridicule," or "viscous and slanderous words/labels" may be hurled at him. Would anyone need a comparison example to place beside this attitude or can we agree that the mark of the real believer in any age is an intense, ongoing interest in (and identifiable *progress* toward) complete understanding of God's Word.
Historically, the person/group who holds the "must-know" attitude toward the Scriptures has operated outside the sphere of endorsement and commendation which the world bestows on its own (John 15:19). "Polite society" has perceived them as "losers" and "fanatics." They have met in secret, have seen their Bibles seized and destroyed by the more "orthodox" brethren, have been pursued and punished at every opportunity and by every means (thrown to lions, crucified for sport, disjointed on the rack, burned at the stake, suffered the loss of friends, property, reputation, and freedom). Their histories have been obscured in the chaos of the times, burned as heresy along with them - but their drive to attain to the hope appointed for them is familiar to all of God's elect.
In II Cor. 13: 5, Paul challenges professing believers at Corinth to "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"
Wise counsel then.
Wise counsel now.
M. K. Nawojski
27 April 2001
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