There was them, and there was me. We were all doing the same thing from different ends of the hall, but they all stood in a large group at the other end, engaging in conversation and warding off delinquents by their size and presence. I stood alone at the my end, fending off the masses alone. No one ventured down to my end of the hall. They kept to their end and left me to mine. The students, of course, knew my end was the weaker one. They were scheming shenanigans and I was the softy letting them pass because I wanted them to have their last hoorah. I loudly ushered them back into their classes, enforced sternly where a breech of authority could be plainly seen, but otherwise slowly turned from their fun so they could have it. At the other end of the hallway, there was a reunion of teachers. They all seemed to be having a good time, providing a comedic escape for the haggard few enforcing authority down there. I reflected to myself: isn’t this how it’s always been? The Christian life, symbolized.
I’m a loner. Probably not by choice at first, but now I relish it. I used to relish people and activities, but years of isolation and loneliness have turned me from extrovert to introvert and I have finally just embraced it. The truth is, I don’t belong in most groups because there’s too much that goes on that I disdain. I don’t “get” most jokes because my humor is decently nonexistent. What the world finds funny, I abhor. I have a fresh dislike for gossip, having been the subject of a very painful strain lately. I think most opinions are ridiculous, having their root in human logic rather than the Word of God. This is me, as symbolized here, coming out from among them and being separate. I don’t think I chose this. I just read the Bible until it became the only truth I care about and it seems that this isolation and loneliness is a direct result of that one pursuit: the wisdom and knowledge of God.
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). Sadly, the church is trying to engage this present culture with their own smoke and mirrors. We try to engage the godless with the very things that offend the Holy Spirit, throwing off the cloak of righteousness that separates us in favor of anything we can find in the costume closet that makes the lost look at us with oooohs and ahhhhs. We might get their attention at first, but then we adopt their ways and call it “Christianity.” In fact, we are being less Christ-like and more like the devil every day. The world cannot distinguish us because we would rather fit in – make it into that gaggle at the end of the hallway – then stand alone.
I’m not judging. I know it’s painful to be the odd man out. I lived it for many years before I finally managed to silence the still small voice inside long enough to run into the world and taste it’s wild fruit. It’s intoxicating. Mezmerizing. Death to the man or woman of God inside. So I went back into the Word, and necessarily, farther from being able to “hang” with most of the people in my life because we just aren’t on the same page. The things most people revel in, I find repulsive. This is not to imply that I am perfect. I am not. But when the Holy Spirit is your most constant companion, your discernment for what pleases God is awakened and you struggle to abide by things you once found “normal human behavior.” You desire less of the world and more of heaven in your daily life.
It’ll happen, friend, if you aren’t careful. Get a little too reckless with your time and you will find that the more you give to God, the less you will like the world around you. The less you will fit in. The more you will fight the enemy because people will dislike you simply because of who your friends are. While they have so many, you will only have three: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. You will become an absurdity among men. Don’t fight it. You have been called to be a peculiarity (1 Peter 2:9). God has spoken your name, calling you to “come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). You will either embrace the world with all it’s present, albeit fading, glory. Or you will embrace Christ. One offers you all that glitters in this life; the other, an eternity of being held in the arms of your Savior. One offers flesh all that it craves of attention and affection; the other promises to kill the flesh, but breathe eternal life into the spirit. You do have a choice, friend. God has laid it out and left it precariously in your hands. “You will hate the one and love the other” (Matt. 6:24). You cannot shirk the choice because to not decide is to decide in favor of this world. “Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of this world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). And with that, the present state of the American church as it is quite clear: “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me” (Amos 5:21). Why? Because our churches are full of dead men. There is no revival in our hearts because we choose not to talk about what displeases God. We don’t preach so that men may know the error of their ways and repent, we preach so that men may feel justified in their sin. That message will make a man think he has no need of a Savior. What does he have to be saved from?
We bring in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for young children and their adoring mothers. We even dress up and hand out candy on Halloween. We sell the church to rock bands Friday evening, and expect the Holy Spirit to reside in the same place we have allowed the devil to cavort. It is not that the Spirit cannot, but that the Spirit of God will not. The Spirit of God will not abide in a place ferreted out to the world six days of the week. The church thinks God has lowered His standards, but closer inspection of the Word reveals He cannot. “He is the same YESTERDAY, TODAY and FOREVER!” (Heb. 13:8).
Leonard Ravenhill once said that “The only reason we don’t have revival is because we are willing to live without it.” I would add that we are willing to live without it because we are afraid that God might reveal the darkness in us. He might call forth repentance, in which case we would have to acknowledge that we are not as righteous as we pretend to be. If revival were to fall in America, it would completely shake up the churches. Santa and the Easter bunny might have to find a new hangout among pagan temples because we would no longer welcome them in our hallowed halls. We would shut down our church bar coffee shops and stop making money of the fatigued Sunday School crew, because suddenly, Jesus’ tirade in the temple courts would make sense again. We would preach an unwavering message of holiness, “without which none shall see God” (Heb. 12:14).
The church must be willing to stand alone. We must be willing to swim against the tide, because while we talk about the direction the world is headed, we are sadly just swimming alongside our neighbors in the same direction, telling them all they want to hear because we don’t want to offend anyone. The church has taken on PC Culture as if we came up with it, but in truth, it’s the doctrine of the devil himself. Jesus did not engage in conversations in a PC manner. He confronted sin. He confronted rebelliousness in the hearts of people. Yes, he did it in love. But love is not completely disregarding the sinful nature of a lost humanity. Love is compelling people with tears to come to God. To run from sin. To avoid eternal damnation. To speak an uncomfortable truth that puts us at odds with most everyone. Our message will isolate us, for sure. It’ll be uncomfortable and we will often feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable and outnumbered. We will say, like Paul, “a great door of effective ministry has opened for me, and there are many who oppose me” (1 Cor. 16:9).
We have mistakenly believed for so long that the world will embrace us. No! The world will persecute, plunder, and put us to death. That is why we are implored to be courageous. That is why we must have faith. That is why we need the Holy Spirit filling us every moment of every day. The world will forever be at odds with the church of God that is truly after His heart, because the world is in the clutches of Satan. There will always be them and us. “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1 Cor. 11:19).
Choose you this day whom you will serve; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). We choose Christ knowing that it makes us enemies of the world. Knowing we face isolation and loneliness, persecution, disgrace, and everything else the world can lay siege to us because we bear that name that is above all other names. There is them, and there is me. Where are you?