I had a very strange dream last night about my friends at my old church, a much more evangelical one than that which I now attend. I’m hoping to visit them in a week or two, the mental preparation of which is, I think, what prompted the dream.
My friends there are lovely people, but one of the things we constantly circled each other on was the process and end goal of evangelizing itself. I’m reading The Pilgrim’s Progress right now, and the weary travelers Christian (after whom I’ve named myself) and Hopeful have just wandered a ways with Ignorance. As he lags behind, Christian and Hopeful talk about the ways in which people decide to be saved and whether or not that’s “real.”
I’m not in full agreement with the conversation they have of it, but I did get caught on the idea that some convert out of a fear of retribution, a fear of the fiery darkness of Hell. It’s true. I think I’ve converted some 4 or so times in my lifetime (only one stuck, you see), and at least one of them was motivated by the awful pictures portrayed of what death would be like if I didn’t ‘fess up and claim this Jesus dude.
I think the book also prompted the dream, or at least part of the subject matter. I only wish to mull this over for today’s musing; why are so many Christians so keen to present Christianity as a haven from evil and not a blessing in its own right? Yes, I do believe in the concept of sin, and I do believe in some concept of Hell (though I’m not sure about the fiery pits bit). (Yes, I am aware of Rob Bell’s Love Wins, though I’ve not yet had the chance to read it. It’s on my list; if you’ve read it, please, let me know what you thought of it.) But I also believe in the flies-with-honey-not-vinegar advice; not that we should minimize the terrors of a life without God, but that we should maximize the awesomeness of a life with God.
Evangelical ministries seem to miss the point, to me. God is who He is because there was this one supreme act of love that forever connected us to Him–very severe death. Yes, it was a move of atonement, but it was also a showcase of love; He loved (and loves) us that much. As an all-powerful deity, surely He has better things to do than hang with us, yet He chooses that. Shouldn’t that be a leading line when discussing this with those who don’t believe? Belief should not be born in fear, but in awe.
“If you sin, how does that affect God? Even if you sin again and again and again, what effect will it have on him?…But it is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned.” Job 35:6, 13 (NLT)