The Temptation of Normalcy

I don’t make things easy on myself.

About 10 months ago, I relaunched this blog in its current form to offer my thoughts on theology and culture. In that time, I’ve taken on some difficult subjects. Police violence. Racism. Abortion. Homosexuality. Trump. War. Millennial critiques of the church. It’s basically a laundry list of subjects to touch on if you want to upset people, especially if you approach these subjects through a Christian worldview that insists on an absolute standard of right and wrong and logical consistency in an age that is increasingly relativistic and illogical.

And people have been upset. Things I’ve written here and in other forums have been criticized. I’ve lost friends. I’ve been called names. I’ve had to defend my positions from attack from all sides.

On top of this, I’ve felt God’s calling to ministry and have enrolled in seminary. It’s going to take a long time. It’s going to cost a lot of money. It’s going to keep me from doing some fun things and having some nice things that I otherwise might. And what I have to look forward to at the end is a jump from a promising, stable career to one much less promising and certain. I’m preparing to take the gospel to a generation that largely doesn’t want to hear it and often sho through its actions on college campuses and social media feeds that it has no problem shooting the messenger.

Now, I’m not complaining. I know what I signed up for. I know there’s people in the world that have it far worse than I ever will. I know that the God who has started this work will be faithful to complete it. I know that if what God has spoken is true, then it is too important not to talk about.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I don’t enjoy being attacked and vilified. I’m not a fan of having to pinch every penny. There’s times of creeping doubt. There’s days where I stop and ask if it’s all worth it.

As I seek to glorify God through my endeavors and follow the path He has laid out for me, there is temptation. Not so much the obvious kind–the lying, cheating, stealing, or sex stuff–there is a kind that is far more benign, and dangerously appealing. It is simply the temptation to be normal. The temptation to persist in the status quo. The temptation to live just an average (but morally decent) middle class life; have a good, long career; have kids and grand-kids who will do likewise; retire; die; and be forgotten. It would just be so much easier. I wouldn’t have to offend people with harsh truth. I wouldn’t have to make difficult choices about how time and money is allocated that affect the people I care about.

But here’s the problem. God hasn’t called me (or any of His people) to easy, uneventful lives. He has called us to sacrifice. He has called us to die.

And he (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26 ESV)

The proposition Jesus is presenting here is one that is often lost on us. We live far enough away from Jesus, historically, that for us the cross is just a symbol of Christ and the church. Which is fine. But in the context in which Jesus is speaking, in a Roman-occupied land, the cross is the very embodiment of torture and death. Jesus is telling us that if we are going to follow Him, that may be where it leads. But the consequence of not doing so is even greater. Those who deny Christ in this life will be denied by Christ in the day of judgment and be sent away to eternal torment and destruction. Is our desire to live normal, comfortable lives pushing us into a de facto denial of Christ in our everyday lives? Are we not being obedient to Him because of what man might say or do?

I’ll gladly take a bumpy 80 or 90 years here if it’s repaid with 80 or 90 trillion years of eternity in the presence of God. We need this eternal perspective; otherwise, we will struggle to live boldly confidently, and (if needed) confrontationally with the truth. ♦


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