Extremism in My Religion?!

Have you ever met a person who’s extremely devoted to their work?

You know – the guy who reaches home from work at 9:30pm and hardly grumbles about it because he loves what he is doing. The missionary or pastor who rushes to counsel troubled families in slums at 1am. The teenager who wakes up at 4 am to study for her biology exam.

The company or school recognizes their contribution- Star employee of the year. Rank #1 in the class. It takes a while but the missionary features in a couple of magazines, not to mention the monthly newsletter that is commended by their home-church.

His cubicle is adorned with certificates, maybe a trophy or two.

She loves the way she gets all the answers right and is not wasting her time unlike some others in her class.

In the world of Christians, you will find almost all of us passionate about one thing or the other. There are those of us who are devoted to “social media justice”. We share and re-share the latest outrage and call out for justice on Facebook and Twitter. Our time and efforts are spent on ensuring that the latest “stand for justice” is taken.

Other Christians are all about healthy living. The right kind of diet, cookies, juices, whole wheat, organic (or metallic), on it goes.

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Some others are passionate about the right exercise and body-building techniques. Others love to get their parenting technique perfect to the last word and can correct anyone whose techniques appear faulty. Yet others are passionate about the latest Christian celebrity news, still some about the latest Christian music artist creating new records.

Devotion is an amazing thing. Passion is a gift from our God. I admire people who have channeled their passions to achieve meaningful goals in life that matter eternally. The top on that list in our Lord Jesus (Phil 2:5-9).
And yet there are times when I wonder how often have C.S. Lewis’ words come true in my life.

Back-drop : “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis is a fictional work that contains letters written by a senior demon to a junior demon about the ways by which they could win a Christian over to their “Father’s” side (the Devil’s side) and how to keep the Christian from being useful in “the Enemy’s” service (our God’s work).

Here is an excerpt:

“All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged…

…Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favor of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience.”

C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”.

Replace the “Pacifism” above with passionate causes of today’s Christian world and we shall have the problem at hand clearly defined.

Instead of being “extremely devoted” to the Lord, we are quite prone to becoming devoted to the good and secondary things in this eternal life. We can become avowed Calvinists but can forget to pray to an all-powerful God. We can become so consumed about serving food to the poor each week that we might end up sub-consciously believing that the Christian faith is just a great way to serve the poor.

Lewis’ book taps into the fact that the devil uses variations of the same tricks today that he used back then to deceive Christians. There were people back then too, who felt that their passionate causes must be defended and promoted. And eventually these people were more easily known for their good and godly things, instead of them prizing Jesus.

For the Christian, life must first be about being irresistibly attracted to Jesus, not to “godly” matters that excite their personal desires. Which could mean that some of us will need to die to our devotion to healthy eating, if we are to love Jesus above all else.

Some of us might need to re-think our level of excitement for some really godly things Marg churches offer today.

Am I devoted to the idea of “Reformed Theology” or to the idea of “Marg” more than I am to obeying Jesus here and now?

Am I excited more by famous theologians and their blogs than by active meditation on Jesus’ work?

Does talk about the gospel and the Bible take up more of my time than living out the implications of the gospel?

Satan may not use lust and greed to keep us away from being focused on Jesus, if either Calvinism or body-building can do that for him. How tragic it would be if the ideas of “missional family” or “godly parenting” become our idols and replace Jesus! Beware, oh people of God, beware!

But I am certain that God will wrestle with our hearts until we stop making good things the main thing of our lives. May it be that we are found extremely devoted to nothing and no one other than the Lord Jesus himself.

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.  Rev. 2:3-5

Ask this question to three people who know you best – “What one thing would you say am I devoted to, the most?”. If their answer is not Jesus, you may have violated the first commandment (Ex. 20:2-3).

If Jesus Christ himself were to walk into your home or your office cubicle today, what do you think would He say you are extremely devoted to?

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