Tuesday, June 06, 2006

throwing it into gear

Neutrality Loathsome

God will have all, or none; serve Him, or fall
Down before Baal, Bel, or Belial:
Either be hot, or cold: God doth despise,
Abhor, and spew out all Neutralities

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Tough words. Wise words. Words that challenge.
As a lover of art, I have grown to embrace the things that challenge me. Although I have grown in my appreciation for 20th-century music, much of it still rankles my ears. I endeavor to like it, though. Why?
I remember hearing Debussy's Le Mer as a high-school student. I didn't have a musical pocket to put it in.
"Awful!" I exclaimed. "This can't be music!"
Yet, a few short years later, I was learning a dissonant piano sonata by Hindemith, even more of a musical leap for my ears. And loving it. (Sometimes I eat words for a living....)
This change of heart has taken place so many times, in so many ways, that it doesn't surprise me anymore. It happens whenever I stretch my head (and heart) to think past my first assertions. In museums. In concert halls, libraries, and classrooms. In the car and in the supermarket. In conversation with friend and foe alike.

And in church.
I hear something that rankles my spirit. It could be a passage from the Old Testament. You know, that whole take-no-captive, jealous God kind of thing. Let's not think we can escape by reading a kinder, gentler New Testament. Just where is that Sunday-school Jesus with long blonde hair that politely knocks on our door with a quaint lantern in his hand? Not in these pages, in any translation. When we truly venture in, we easily join the disciples in their complaints: "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60b)

Neutrality is not an option for a believer. Perhaps an option for a "consider-er" (if that's a word). But His promises are not reserved for those who consider. This God who despises, spews, and abhors is the very God who loves, forgives, and has mercy. He calls us out from the muck of indifference and thrusts us into a life of cut-and-dry. Throwing the car into neutral gets us nowhere. We feel the rumble of horsepower under our seat, the wheel turns under our hands, our foot toys with the gas pedal. That's not the Christian life I aspire to.

My prayer today is that I would engage the engine. Neutrality can eat dust.


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