Gentle Not Jelly
In high school my basketball coach, commenting on how skinny I was, said at our senior banquet that “York has to jump around in the shower just to get wet.” Well, that may have been, but he would be glad to know that my waist size has caught up to (passed?) my inseam. Some members of my family (who will be left unnamed) even have fun patting me on the tummy and calling it “The Paunch.” I find that as I slow down more and more on the basketball court The Paunch is playing more and more of my defense.
If you think I’m about to go down a path of making you feel sorry for me, though, think again. That was simply a lead-in to say that though I may be getting a bit soft on the front side, it’s my backbone and yours that has me more concerned these days. When we behave like jellyfish in our convictions, what will become of the church?
For it seems everywhere we turn convictions are falling. Christians appear to want to outdo one another with proving how compassionate and relevant they are. Here are seemingly random yet related issues that have rolled over me like waves in recent days:
- The fourth mainline denomination, the PCUSA where I was married, has voted to ordain homosexuals, making history with their decades-long decline into decadence. Though a local pastor here did a good job of denoting the differences, it still makes it more difficult to use the presbyterian label.
- Focus on the Family, long a stalwart in cultural battles, seems to be losing some steam. Can it be true that they no longer seem to care if homosexuals hold high offices in the land?
- Liberals for a long time have talked about searching for the historical Jesus. Now evangelicals are searching for the historical Adam and, surprise, surprise, many do not think he was ever there. After they’re done stripping the Bible of Adam, sovereignty, hell, creation, etc., will there be anything left?
- A friend updated me on how the local Islamic center had been using churches to meet in before they purchased their own building here in town. How tolerant and loving!
- The amount of free stuff local ministries and churches advertise and give away astounds me. Often, when people call asking for assistance, I cannot even get done with a few questions before they hang up on me. Why bother with a little accountability when they can get it easier elsewhere?
- Lately, I have felt tremendous pressure regarding a personal matter to sacrifice principle in order not to appear unloving before others.
Others long before me, noting similar tendencies, have labeled the American Protestant church as being filled with “evanjellyfish.” Yet to be truly evangelical, as David Wells reminds us with the title of his book, we are going to need The Courage to be Protestant. As he states,
“It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant…To live by the truths of historic Protestantism, however, is an entirely different matter. That takes courage in today’s context.”
Jesus called us to be salt, not sugar. However, the constant pressure of our multicultural surroundings is to be sweeter and sweeter all the time. To be honest, as I get older and more (sigh) “paunchy,” I feel more heavily this temptation to settle for comfort over courage. One area I have seen this in is that I have been a reluctant evangelist rather than an engaged one.
Yet may just the thought of wavering from obedience to Christ and His holy Word make us pause. Then may it cause you and me to stiffen the spine, to suck in the belly (no matter how much it shakes like jelly), to set the forehead like flint and press on in obedience to the truth. A friend encouraged me by meeting and planning some evangelistic activities for the summer, and despite outer appearances I felt strong and young again. To me it was no coincidence that I ended up evangelizing someone outside Walgreen’s at 10:00 that very night.
Who knows what the Lord might do to reverse these trends? “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).