Friday, March 23, 2018

Living With The Lost

“How can you live in a country where you know most of the people are going to   hell,” the PhD student in theology asked?

My friend, who has lived in south Asia for almost thirty years, in essence replied,
“One day at a time, as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) to those who do not yet believe in the living God or His Son, Christ Jesus.”

What troubled this American visitor was seeing idols and shrines throughout the city.  He was overwhelmed with the superstition and the rituals that Hindus perform just to get to the next level of existence, whatever and wherever that is.

Of course my friend could have also answered the young theologian this way…that every Christian, in every part of the world, lives every day with people who are going to hell.   And, though this a reality, why does it not bother us as much to live among the lost in our own country as with the lostness of those in other cultures? 

Two reasons.

First, the blindness to our own idols.   Idol worship is of course adoration to an object that we pray (sometimes literally, but not always), which will provide for us success, happiness, health and fulfillment.  To many people in West the idols of materialism have more tentacles than the arms of Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity).  The average U.S. household credit card is over $15,000.  On top of that there is mortgage and car loan debt.  Somehow falling down prostrate to a flat screen TV, a diamond ring or the latest Xbox game doesn’t have that same queasy feeling of depravity as burning candles before the statue of Buddha.

Of course there is also the idol of family, career, ideology, equality, political affiliation and seemingly the most important issue for happiness (if you believe the media) sexual orientation. 

Psalms 115 describes idols as gods made of silver and wood that have eyes but cannot see, mouths that cannot speak, ears that cannot hear, etc.  And while idols cannot see, most Americans have eyes that cannot see their many gods.

Secondly, the reason we can’t see the lostness of people in our own culture is because of our culture…the culture of Christianity, and it takes two forms.  (a) We have just gotten so use to the godless culture that it has become the norm.  Divorce, pre-marital sex, bad language in public and in movies and soft porn that is invited into our homes each night, is enough to make a Muslim blush, but we hardly notice.  I heard someone say recently that they don’t even hear the “F” words in the movies anymore, as it just seems to be just a part of the dialogue.  We writhe in righteous pain of heart at the sight of those who crawl around a Buddhist stupa, but we’ll pay $15 to let the culture norms of our day entertain us.   Eyes that no longer see, ears that no longer hear.

(b) Everyone is a Christian.  I think part of the problem of the young theologian is there weren’t enough people like him around and he was uncomfortable (perhaps that is why he is studying theology, so he can surround himself with the saints in a Christian university). 

In America, 84% of the population claim to be Christians (in Dallas it’s a bit higher).  It’s pretty easy not to see the idol worshippers when they are us.  However, 49% of professing Christians say they rarely attend church, the other 51% at least once a month.  12% give 10% of their income to Christians work  (the church or missions) and less 20% read their Bible daily.  Cultural Christians, like cultural Muslims and Hindus, just assume that if we give at least verbal assent to our faith that we’ll make it to heaven, paradise or wherever, by-and-by.

An even greater challenge to the PhD student might be, does he (or we) even know truly lost people?  It’s easy to rub shoulders with those on the road to perdition in Katmandu, but what about the damned in Kansas City?

The truth is, we should never get use to living with lost, whether it is in Mumbai or Memphis.   Like my friend in Asia, each day, one day at a time, be salt and light no matter what idol city we live in.

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