If I disregard the protection my blood pressure medication affords me or neglect the exercise of regular dosages or leave it in places where it would get lost or stolen, I am making my heart an easy target for stroke or attack because of weakened and malfunctioning systems. When we disregard the value of the graces the Lord has provided, or fail to put on the spiritual armor available to every believer, or neglect the benefits in growth and maturity accessible through the body of Christ, the church, then we make ourselves easy targets for the side-of-the-road attacks from the fiends of temptation, affliction, and sin.
Some of us cope by making lists of what to do in the worst-case scenario. We bury ourselves in research and follow up on our discoveries with changes in where we shop, how we cook, what products we use, etc. Lists and rules and preventatives will save us, and we tend to think this not because they actually will but because just doing something measurable seems more productive than just doing something immeasurable, something that doesn’t have results that can be seen or quantified, something like trusting God.
Death cannot be avoided, but the sting of death can.
That hole I want to dive into when this world’s failures — when my failures — press in upon me? I can’t go there. It’s already occupied — by my burden. It tumbled off my shoulders and into that Tomb when Jesus set His mark on me and sealed me for heaven. That glorious, empty tomb was vacated when He rose to conquer the terror and finality of death that loomed over me when I resided in the City of Destruction. That hole once housed His body crushed for me under the weight of my sin, and now it buries instead for eternity my burden and those of all who believe in Him. It’s a bottomless pit.
No good can come from calling fellow believers enemies. These are people we fellowship with at the table of the Lord, meet with in corporate worship, lay our burdens down together before the throne. To determine that they are enemies when God Himself has declared them His friends at the expense of the blood of His Son is to pronounce that relationships operate on your rules and terms, regardless of what God has done. And because it’s possible that those you suspect are behaving badly are not believers, it’s still not grounds for alienation if all they’ve done is give the appearances of enmity. They are without the spiritual tools needed to do conflict well. Witness to them of the greatest work of reconciliation done in all of history and rightly inform them they are enemies to God—as you once were—and that they can be bought and washed and made new—as you are now.
Here is the shared experience of those who travel Christian’s road, whether new or old in the faith: wrestling with “right” decisions, fighting doubts, putting off behavior and thoughts of the old man that do not honor Christ, grappling with understanding theology and God’s commands. These struggles threaten to steal any joy from living this life, and they don’t even come close to the battles that thousands upon thousands of worthy Pilgrims fight every single day for the sake of the gospel.
Imagine how equipped an army hospital would have to be to deal with the tribulations that Christian experienced. Consider how ill-equipped many of us are to minister to the wounds and trauma inflicted in Apollyon’s battle against the church. But according to verse 17 of John 15, we do have one balm and solace to offer our stricken comrades: These things I command you so that you will love one another.
Basically, centuries of lip-serviced, watered-down exposure to the Bible does not mean that the people of those generations were spiritually alive, biblically engaged, or even necessarily biblically literate. In fact, there is even grounds for applying the theory of the frog and the boiling water. Years and years of syncretism and neglect heating up in a presumably “Bible friendly” environment has resulted in much of modern evangelicalism being caught in a scalding hot pot of decisionism, false teaching and apostasy.