Our small group has progressed only as far as Chapter 7 in Beautiful Outlaw, but it is finally new material for me. I had only gotten halfway through this chapter when we decided to read it as a group and I started over, so here we go…
The chapter is called “Disruptive Honesty,” and it deals with Jesus’s very pointed words where people need them most and when, and the internal turmoil it causes us as individuals. Near the end of the chapter, Eldredge dives into the matter of Christ being the one and only salvation of the soul. He discusses it at length, no glossing here, amen. Really now, how offensive is it to read, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through me” (emphasis mine)? What an enormous point of contention. That cuts out every other beloved, enlightening philosophy humankind has ever cleaved to. As Eldredge states, “Offensive as the claim may be, we still have to deal with it. Either it is arrogant, or it is true.” (p. 76)
This chapter brought to mind something I heard in a sermon many years ago. The preacher said, “Everywhere Jesus went, he caused people to choose. Jesus always presents us a choice. Either we believe, or we don’t. Either we do what he says, or we don’t.” There’s no middle ground there. Middle ground with Jesus is not possible. This is very out of fashion in our modern, Western way of thinking. Eldredge goes on to elaborate this point:
“The spirit of our day is a soft acceptance of everything—except deep conviction in anything. …The cry used to be for ‘tolerance,’ by which we meant, ‘We have very strong differences, but we will not let those be the cause of hatred and violence between us.’ Now it is something else. … Conviction might be a matter of personal opinion, but truth is like a great mountain, solid and immovable whether we like it or even acknowledge it. Christianity is not a set of convictions—it is a truth. The most offensive thing imaginable.” (p. 79)
In his letter to the Romans, Paul quoted Isaiah 8:14: “I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (Rom. 9:33). We cannot encounter Jesus without choosing. Yes. No. Having to choose makes us uncomfortable, so we ignore the issue (or try to snuff it out) as much as humanly possible. Even those who already believe are being asked to act on something, somewhere, with someone. Yes. No. Ignoring him is the same as saying, “No.” Saying, “Maybe,” is the same as saying, “No.”
“Old Picket Fence” by Sarah M Wolfe Photography, 2008
People tend to live quite comfortably on fences. I live there often myself. Concerning politics, to make certain investments with my time and energy, to speak tough love to someone, to listen to tough love that someone is speaking into me. But about the state of my soul? My eternity? That’s just too important. “Maybe” is easy, but it doesn’t go the distance. “Maybe” spares us discomfort, but it doesn’t resolve anything. “Maybe” Jesus is who he says he is. “Maybe” I have a soul. “Maybe” it will live on for eternity when my body dies. “Maybe” once I’m dead, I’m just dead and it won’t matter anymore. Maybe.
Sort it out. Yes. Or no. We cannot afford to waver on this one.