Indifference Toward God
In the Bible, God reveals himself to us. It’s not a picture of his face or a collage of thumbnails. It’s a story of his grace, stretching throughout history from the moment he spoke light into existence to the heaven-coming-down-to-earth end of it all. In the middle (at least roughly so), Jesus comes into the world, born of a woman, born under the law so that he might redeem all those born under the law. God incarnate, the long-awaited Messiah, the Seed of Abraham, the Promised One. Better than any man before him, he never failed the test of obedience. More innocent than a new-born baby until the time of his death, he died as a guilty man—the sins of the world placed upon his capable shoulders. Vindicated by God after his final breath, he rose in a glorious, new body, the future of all who shall follow him into eternal life. In the Bible, God reveals himself: that he created, he planned, he promised, he preserved, he came, he lived, he died, he rose, and he’s coming back.
In the Bible, God tells us the story of everything culminating in the most important thing: the gospel of Jesus Christ. But walk into any group discussion among American Christians and listen for the conversation to shift to that central story. Can you hear it? Probably not. Perhaps unlike anywhere else in the world, American Christianity lays on the bed relying on the slow drip of weekly pick-me up medicine supplied by a professional keeping them alive. American Christianity is, at base, indifferent to the things of God. No, let me rephrase that. American Christianity is, at base, indifferent to God. We like his things. I’m not sure we like him.
It’s in my heart, too. The subtle sigh as I look at my Bible on the shelf, indicating not my desire to read it, my gratefulness for its existence as a child is for his favorite blanket, but the irritation that it’s there, like a tedious job I need to make ends meet. The trailed off prayers as I go throughout my day, unable to hold together as if I’m conversing with a real person but distant and puny, scattered in a thousand directions, clouded by overused words and mindless ramblings, like getting lost in a forest. The lack of joy inside coming not from my circumstances as much as from the lack of the circumstances I want. I know God is the pathway, but to where does his path lead: my hoped-for circumstantial happiness or his promise-fulfilled eternal joy?
I treat God like a teenager does a parent, recognizing his presence but longing for him to leave me alone, for crying out loud. But to live in God’s house is not to cohabitate with him. It is to be with him, or rather, for him to be with me. It’s not a separate but equal relationship, tip-toeing around one another’s annoyances and practicing general peacekeeping. It is a takeover. When God comes in, he isn’t, as Ray Ortlund has said, getting a seat at the board room table of my heart. When God comes in, he fires the rest of the board and takes his rightful place as sole controller of the company doing business as David.
As I look out at the foundational indifference toward God in so many Christian circles, I wonder if the deal we thought we made in coming to Christ was like adding a member to the family. You know, the crazy uncle we keep hidden in the other room at the reunion, dismissing his radical calls to revolution as we take another cookie off the counter. I wonder if we miss the point entirely. We think of the gospel as our gospel; it’s a “me and Jesus” attitude that puts Jesus in his rightful place after me and asks him to take a supporting role in the adventure I’m trying to live out on my own.
But Jesus isn’t the safety chute in my backpack. He’s the plane carrying me up, the officer pushing me out, the parachute floating me down, the air holding me up, the wind hitting my face, the ground I’m falling toward, the sky I’m zooming through. I don’t call the shots as I like to think. I follow his orders, and when he says jump, I don’t hesitate at the door. I fall fast, knowing he’s there all along, even if the chute fails to open. If it does fail, if I fall to my death before I’d like to see this life end, I know it’s all part of the story he’s telling. It’s his war I’m training for. It’s greater than myself. It’s worldwide and cosmic, flesh and blood and spiritual through and through. It’s his world; I’m just living in it. And dream of all dreams, he’s not left me out. He’s called me to himself where the training is grueling and the days are long and the nights are sleepless but the glory awaiting never fades. An indifferent soldier is a dead soldier. But even the dead man can be raised by Jesus.