I’m at a point in my life, with career and family, where I simply don’t have the time I need to accomplish all of the things I’d like to do. I’m sure this sounds familiar to many of you. Some of these things are still important, they still matter, but they just get prioritized out. So, while I still attempt to blog as I’m able, I’ve found that direct interaction with folks through other social media is most often “more bang for the buck”.
As I deal with people who interact with others regarding matters of faith, I’m often fatigued by the tone and content. Sometimes it just seems like it’s just not worth it. I mean, what difference does it make?
It makes ALL the difference.
I’ve been thinking about a good friend of mine, lately. His name is Luis. Luis has a joy for life that only comes from someone who has seen the evil of the world in all it’s ugliness. In his case, it was through combat. He’s one of the most easy-going, carefree folks I’ve ever known. Until the day he took me rappelling.
As he started to uncoil the myriad ropes, pulleys, and other things-I-don’t-know-what-they’re-called, his mood changed dramatically. His words were direct. There was no chit-chat. Each phrase, each word had a sternness, and an immediacy that let me know that this was serious. And though this phrase is overused; Deadly serious.
Luis made it very clear, that although there were different styles, different views of climbing, different equipment, one thing was constant and non-negotiable. The rope is the only thing between you and death. The minute you believe that you can grab the rope and hold on, you’re in deep, deep trouble. You have to fight every instinct to grab the rope with both hand, he reminded me. The hand tucked behind you is a sort of unnatural surrender to the fact that the rope holds.
This reminds me of many of my recent theology discussions on social media. Does it really matter? If you love Jesus, and I love Jesus, isn’t it all the same without all the drama and theology?
In short; It matters…..tremendously….. to the point of being the difference between life and death.
You see, there are styles. And there are folks who are my, OUR brothers and sisters in Christ who do things a bit differently. And that’s OK. But the problem is, much of what I see in these differences makes it entirely too easy to begin to grab for the rope.
If I believe that it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that I am declared righteous before God, I haven’t left much room for me to trust my grip. But change one thing, *anything* in that sentence and I make it easy to trust my grip.
If I make it grace through merit, I’ve grabbed the rope and started to pull.
If I make it faith and works, I’ve grabbed the rope.
If I make it Christ and my decision, I’ve grabbed the rope.
If I trust my wicked heart of fleeting feelings, rather than trusting in Word and Sacrament, I’ve let go of the rope with both hands!
As some dear friends in Christ often say;
Though I hold not to thee, Christ hold fast to me.
I must admit, as someone who is afraid of heights, and a bit of a control freak, I fought the rope through my first climb. Out of panic, I even attempted to climb on my own strength at one point and still have the scar on my leg, 20 years later, as a reminder. But when I began to trust that the rope would hold, it was incredibly freeing; I was able to enjoy the view. (I hear that there are folks who even sleep overnight on some of the most intense climbing locations like Half Dome.) Yet, even experienced climbers must fight the “natural” reaction to grab the rope with both hands. And here I find myself, every single day, failing to trust the one who holds me. That fear never leaves me.
So, my point is this. It matters. It matters tremendously. What seems overly technical, tedious, and often confrontational is often the small difference between life and death.
You’ll be called nitpicky, divisive, unloving, “sharp tongued”, or worse. You will, at some point, be called out as the very reason why people don’t “come to Jesus”.
As my friend Luis told me, there are many kinds of styles, but some of them make it incredibly easy to make the fatal error of trusting your grip and grabbing for the rope. And it wouldn’t have been loving, or tolerant for him to watch me make that mistake, It was, rather, the most caring thing he could have done to point out that I was in danger.
So, it matters. It matters immensely. Because if your faith is in your grip, you will not be spared from the fall. And to tell those who are on the rock face of this life to stop trusting that grip is not unloving, or petty, but it is divisive. Because these are the words of life which divide those who are held, and those who fall.
Stay in the fight. It matters.