The Real Lesson of Christ’s Passion
C. S. Lewis, in his book Screwtape Letters, noted that the devil’s strategy is not to remove Christ altogether from the scene, but to propagate a “Christ And…” religion:
What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of “Christianity And.” You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychic Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing (Letter XXV).
Today the “Christ And…” mentality permeates our churches. It is seen in our preoccupation with church growth; our adultery with the state; our use of historically flawed films to portray the “real Jesus”; and on and on we could go, until Christ Himself disappears and we are left with nothing but the “And.”
Some have made the giving of the tithe the guarantee of greater financial income. Others try to lure young people to Christianity by making it just a better way to have a good time. Like the mother of James and John, we seek prominent seats in the kingdom of God when the Lord is not offering us seats but suffering.
Lewis was right. The devil would have us take shortcuts and gain the kingdom by conformity to him. He would have us compromise the truth and he would have the church conform to the age and be squeezed into its mold in order to “reach the lost.” Today Christians have devised all sorts of ways to fear the Lord and still serve their own gods.
We Americans are so accustomed to measuring everything by a material yardstick that we sometimes make Christianity the sure road to advancement and recognition. The truth is that we are not promised prosperity and popularity in exchange for becoming a disciple of Jesus. If Christians went all-out in their devotion to Christ, it might mean loss of position, not a swift rise to the CEO’s office. Some preachers in our great churches might have to resign. Others might have to forego Hollywood nonsense. Most would probably have to repent of their idolatrous love of Big Government, for the man who has bowed to Caesar cannot worship God in spirit and truth.
We are not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our mind—not merely nonconformed but transformed so that we actually prove the will of God in our lives, our homes, our churches, and our society.
Reformation is nothing other than the way of the cross, and we travel it with our Lord, bidding farewell to the way of the world.
March 9, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon, will be released this year.