Recently a teen got the attention of the world when she tried to wake people up to the issue of climate change. She was harsh in her criticism of people in positions of power who tiptoe around the issue and have made only miniscule steps toward change. She unapologetically declared we don’t have time for small changes. If drastic change doesn’t happen soon, it will be too late.
We tend to assume we’ve got years. We’ll start the diet, quit drinking, save for retirement next month. We’ll downsize when we get back from the cabin, if we don’t have anything else to do, if a game isn’t on, and if the spirit moves us. We’ll paint the house or trim the trees or stain the deck . . . someday.
The same nonchalant attitude seeps into our spiritual lives. We’ll talk to so and so about God when the time is right. We’ll get back to church when we’re not so busy. We’ll read through the Bible someday.
When I listened to the book of Ephesians recently, I was intrigued by the apostle Paul’s language. He didn’t hold back, and he didn’t tiptoe around the issues. He said, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:1-3).
Look at those modifiers: “Be completely humble. . . . Make every effort.” He didn’t say try to be a little more humble and if you get around to it, be unified in peace. He went on: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed” (4:17-19).
Paul insisted that Christians give him their attention. Being a Christian is to live apart from the world. He warned them against being deceived, because you can’t have it both ways.
That’s hard stuff, Paul. But even harder is realizing what’s right just a little too late.
We often neglect the explanation of the parable of the sower where Jesus says, “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23).
Yes, it’s good to have faith. It’s wonderful to know you’re going to heaven. But don’t you want to produce a crop? Don’t you want to yield as much fruit as you can as long as you’re here?
Spiritually, the stakes are high. Our enemy is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. We’ve made his job easy. We aren’t running. We aren’t even avoiding him. We see Satan in our TV shows, and we shrug. We’ll clean up our act tomorrow.
Jesus said we aren’t the first society to be lulled into spiritual laziness. “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).
We don’t know how long we have. And we don’t know how long anyone else has either. We stay alert and vigilant because the spiritual stakes are high. Coming to the realization—we were wrong about Jesus, wrong to not take our spiritual lives seriously, and wrong to be lulled asleep—a little late is not an option. And who wants to gamble and lose . . . for eternity?