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“Life is tough — pray hard,” is a common admonition today. Pity that
for most of us it stops there, as if God were some Cosmic Nanny,
dispensing an endless supply of Band-Aids over a lifetime of
owwies.

Most of us go about our lives as spiritual children. We play our
favorite game at the vacant lot down the street with our friends, making
up the rules as we see fit. We remember God, it seems, only
when we stub our toe or scrape our knee. Then we run back home, tears
streaming down our cheeks, seeking yet another Band-Aid for our latest
hurt.

And when we mature? All too often “growing up” means that our favorite
game has moved from the vacant lot or the corner park over to the
factory, or into a downtown office high-rise. The nature
of our injuries changes; often they aren’t as visible to the rest of the
world. But all too often our relationship with God remains the same: “I
hurt, Lord… please fix my owwie!”

I wonder — does there come a time in the lives of men, women, and even
nations — when our Spiritual Parent expects more of His relationship
with us than that of stand-in for the bathroom
medicine cabinet Band-Aid dispenser?

Many parents would be deeply wounded if their entire relationship with a
28-year-old son or daughter consisted in applying Band-Aids to scraped
body parts. Do a 28-year-old’s parents still love a child who sleeps
around, sells drugs, or works 80 hours a week in the software industry
to the detriment of his family and children? Of course. Do the parents
wish that things had somehow turned out differently? Daily.

Why, I wonder, do we imagine that God feels any differently toward the
Church in the “developed” Western world today? Christianity’s most
militant adherents frequently characterize the faith not as a
religion, but as a relationship with Jesus Christ. This being the case,
perhaps it’s time the Church in the developed world asked, “How do you
feel about our relationship at this point in time, Lord? Are you pleased
with what I’ve become? Or were you perhaps hoping things might have
turned out differently?”

Jan Hettinga, a Seattle-area pastor and author of Follow Me
(1996, Navpress), suggests what an immature church and its attendant
believers would look like:

  • Cynical
  • Spiritually empty, dry, and unsatisfied
  • Passive and apathetic
  • Focused on their own needs, rights, options
  • Spectators
  • Subdividing life and moving from one sealed compartment to another
  • Going through the motions out of habit
  • Proud at being independent and self-sufficient
  • Living in quiet desperation

As Christians, we celebrate the fact that God has redeemed us. We are
quite certain from what — but precious few of us seem to have
any clue for what. Was it to withdraw from the universities –
most of which, at least in America, were founded by people of faith –
and to abandon the search for truth? Was it to ignore business and
commerce, because as participants we had to trade with the irreligious?
Did we flee from law, the professions and government because the
opposition said unkind things about us during debate in the public
square?

What lies beyond prayer for the Christian? We’ll take it up next week.
In the meantime, when you’re searching the web, type in the word
“Christian” and visit a few of the sites that pop up. I’d be
interested in your thoughts about what you find.

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