Monday, May 27, 2013

The Love of Christ Compels You

A neighbor drops by who lives at the other end of our street. I paid him to trim some tree limbs for me in my front yard a few weeks ago. His two sons helped me store up the firewood that came about as a result of the pruning.

I guess since he did that for us he felt he had a right to drop in and invite us to church a few weeks later.

Luckily for me, I was asleep.

Unfortunately for my wife, she was working in the yard planting flowers. Nowhere to escape.

She retold the account of how he cornered her with his two sons and asked about her religious experiences. He was eager to know if she would be interested in visiting the church he had recently started. Right now, the congregation just consists of himself and his immediate family.

My wife told me that she wanted to race back into the house and wake me up-- but that would have been an awkward scene. Afterall, they weren't threatening her life or anything. Just making her feel really uncomfortable.

My wife told me of how he persisted at trying to discover what she really believed about God and Jesus. My wife is basically agnostic concerning God. She certainly rejects any religion that has even a hint of misogyny in it. And for her, Christianity falls into that category quite nicely (at least, in the way she was exposed to it throughout her life). Also, my wife finds the traditional masculine imagery of God to be abhorrent. So at the very least, she doesn't have faith in the traditional Judeo-Christian God.

The neighbor seemed to sense that she was being evasive and according to her, he became more invasive in his inquiry about her beliefs. I can't remember exactly how she put it, but something she said must have hinted that she had no faith in God.

She recounted that at that moment his eyes suddenly became filled with a sort of manic desperation.  She said he looked on her intently and seemed ready to accost her while saying, "You do believe, right? Do you? I mean . . . you've got to believe in God. Everyone at least believes . . . you do, right?! Don't you?!"

My wife says that what was at first mere discomfort transformed into genuine fear. And before she realized it, she responded, "Yes! Yes! I believe . . . I'm just in an awkward place right now with my faith-- that's all . . ."

Anything to get him to calm down . . .

She finally got the point across to him that she wasn't in the right place emotionally to visit his church right now. He left a card and encouraged her to reconsider.

Even when I was a Christian, I became deeply troubled whenever I saw someone frightened by a presentation of the Gospel. I've seen this happen a few times and I always wondered how someone could ever twist the Gospel in such a terrible way.

But nowadays, I look at such situations differently. Maybe those particular people weren't twisting their presentation of their understanding of the Gospel when they frightened others with it. I reflect upon 2 Corinthians 5:14 and how Paul teaches the early Church that Christ's love compels believers to live a certain way. All are obliged to Christ because he died for all. I can see how that notion can encourage other people to become frantic, fanatical, or even aggressive towards those who ignore this obligation to serve Christ. Such people are compelled to compel everyone else to follow along in their faith.

But I wonder, how do the words "love" and "compel" end up in the same sentence together and still remain a benevolent thought? I suspect that when those ideas are united, you end up feeling what my wife experienced when approached by our neighbor--


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