Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Held to a Higher Standard
We are Christians. There is no higher call on a human life than that to accept Christ into our life and let the Holy Spirit renew us.
Some are called to preach, some found local churches. Some - like me - write. We all have a gift in us to use for God's Glory. Each of us is unique and each of us is essential.
I personally dislike big church congregations. I've attended a few and it was abundantly clear that many people were feeling the same thing I was - my presence won't be missed if I stop coming. In each case the same thing happened for me. I filled in a visitor's card every week for the first few weeks I was there. Only one church bothered to call me to ask if they could do anything or if I needed anything. I was invited to a homegroup at that church, introduced to the members and then left to my own thoughts. When I stopped going, no calls came. I wasn't missed. I wasn't necessary.
This may sound like a bitter rant, but nothing is further from the state of my heart. I was a member of several churches over a number of years, each with a weekly congregation averaging around 100-150 people. If someone was missing, everyone knew there was a face missing and calls and visits were made if nobody knew why. It was a community. Especially the younger people - of which I was one back then - shared what we had with each other. Meals, cars (and motorbikes) for lifts, homes for gatherings. We all knew what was happening with each other and we had accountability to one another.
It was well known that we were a Christian group in the town. And you could feel the expectations as you walked around. We were held to a higher standard than other young adults. It was assumed we were all celibate, didn't drink or smoke and never allowed foul language to cross our minds let alone our lips.
Now I'm in my 40's and I live several thousand miles from that community and have very little contact outside my own family where I am now. I'm under constant spiritual attack as I try after a break to get back into becoming a member of a local church with a solid Biblical foundation. Outside my immediate family my spiritual support is basically three people, the closest of whom geographically is a 16 hour drive away - if I take the short route.
I'm vulnerable in a way I've never been before as a Christian. I allowed myself to get drawn away by the cares of this world and get out of the habit of being in a real Fellowship. Fighting alone is exhausting. Isolation is crippling.
Yet still when I mention I'm a Christian, which comes up a lot in general conversation for some reason, I see immediately a change in behaviour of the people I'm talking to. I've had people put out cigarettes and stop drinking their alcoholic drinks round me. It shocks people when they see me in a bottle-store from time to time buying wine or cider. I've even been asked who I was buying it for more than once - and the looks I get when I say myself are priceless!
Much of the community outside the church in the neighbouring areas to my home here is ruled by alcoholism and drug abuse, heavy smoking and gang crime are commonplace. A dear friend of mine is often afraid to leave her home because the gangs are out. In just one week last month there were ten killings within 100 yards of her front door as rival gangs fight for turf to sell their filth. It always surprises her that I'm not scared to go and visit her and her daughter from time to time.
I drink, but I don't get drunk. One or possibly two drinks in a day at most, and never more than once a week. In fact this week I had my first real drink in over 2 years. I used to have the occasional cigar but haven't had one in over 12 years and was never a regular smoker.
It freaks out people if for some reason I've been target shooting and see them while I still have my pistol clipped to my belt. It's just an air-gun but I'm a marksman so I like to keep my eye in. I'd love to get back to rifle shooting again. There's an archery range just opened down the road from my home I'm considering joining.
For some reason the World thinks as Christians we should not enjoy these secular pastimes. I don't hunt for sport, but if I were offered the chance to go on a hunt to track and shoot game such as buck or warthog I'd probably accept as long as I could have the meat. I would never hunt "Big Game" for sport as the majority are endangered species and anyone who gets a kick out of hanging a lion's head on their wall is clearly missing something upstairs. The only way to hunt Big Game is with a guide and a camera.
People expect that of us as Christians. I used to be a biker, torn jeans, long hair, leather jacket and a Harley-Davidson. I got looks as I'm a big guy. At the time I was 6 feet tall and well over 200 pounds. I was also on the welcoming roster at my church. I helped run a Youth Alpha course which was attended by several kids who simply wanted to be seen with a biker. They got a shock when I turned out to be a Christian and not there to kill the Principal.
We are held to a higher standard than the World by the World. They expect us to be walking around with our hands folded and a bible hidden neatly under our baggy sweater or inside our tailored jacket so we can use it much like an undercover cop might pull his gun.
We should be held to a higher standard. But by ourselves.
I've heard preachers advise young people they shouldn't worry if they're sleeping with their girlfriend. The reasoning? Nothing St Paul wrote, simply "in today's society..."
We are conforming to the pattern of this world. We compromise a little chip here and a little chip there. Eventually there's nothing left of our conviction but empty rhetoric.
We need to be better than this World society. There's nothing new about the society we live in now, especially in America and England, that wasn't going on 2000 years ago in the Roman Empire. Now we call slaves "minimum wage earners". It's a politically correct way of saying it's ok for a young woman abandoned by her "husband" to fend for their children to have to work three jobs to pay the rent, school fees and food bill. I read an article today about a NYU student who has been a prostitute for over a year because her school fees were so high she couldn't pay them and rent and food. And in the interview she stated most of her co-workers were also from NYU or other nearby colleges.
I've been opposed to Christians being overly political until recently. I was reminded by the news that President Jimmy Carter has cancer but insisted on continuing to go and teach his sunday-school class that real Christians can achieve real change against the odds.
We live in a time where, as William Booth predicted, we have religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, Forgiveness without Repentance, Salvation without Regeneration, Politics without God and Heaven without Hell. He predicted it in 1903. 112 years later he must be turning in his grave as we have sat back and let it happen.
The World expects us to be better. They hold us to a higher standard and watch for us to fall so they can cry out that there's no God.
It's time we held ourselves to a higher standard too. The standard of the Cross.
Christianity needs Christ. For forgiveness there needs to be repentance. True salvation leads to regeneration and change in our lives. Our politicians desperately need a moral compass. Who better than Christians to provide it? And from His stories we know Jesus believed in a real place called Hell. It's time we remembered that not everyone goes to heaven automatically.
There are two songs I heard recently quoted. "Highway to Hell" and "Stairway to Heaven". The titles say it all. They speak of the expected traffic numbers.
Hold yourself to a higher standard, no matter how high your personal bar is right now, raise it. Push the boundaries of your Faith in God and let Him set the standard to aim for.
Be held to His Standards, not the World's