Elder’s Insight – March 10th, 2017

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Snowflakes – Paul Wegner

We’ve heard a lot lately about “emotional snowflakes”.  They’re men and women who melt at the first sign of disagreement.  Capable of being “aggrieved” or “triggered” by even the smallest offense, snowflakes flee people and ideas they find uncomfortable and seek solace in the company of like-minded souls.  Securely barricaded in tiny comfort zones, they berate those who are different and eschew beliefs they find troubling.  Snowflakes rarely stray from their soul-mates or their orthodoxy.  They divide the world into “Us” and “Them” and do what they can to keep the groups apart.

We’re bemused to hear about such folks, but I suspect we’re more like them than we want to admit.  The world is filled with people we don’t like.  They irritate us with everything from politics to religion.  They frighten us with their appearance.  They indulge in behavior we find repulsive.  They celebrate what we consider sin.  They don’t look like us, they don’t act like us, they don’t think like us, and they certainly don’t believe or worship like us.

Even ideas can set us on edge.  What do you feel when you hear the word “Evolution”?  Do the words “Gay Rights” or “Alternative Life-style” make you angry?  Do references to “Abortion” or “War on Women” or “Post-Modern Theology” or “The Kardashians” upset you?  “Do conversations about “Pornography” or “Quantum Mechanics” or “Main Stream Media” or “The Second Amendment” make you cringe?

We run from such things.  We change the channel.  We push away people and ideas we don’t like.  We belittle opponents in our conversations, turn from them in our associations, argue about them when we can, and wish God’s judgment on them all – sooner rather than later!  We fantasize about a world without “those kind of people” or “that way of thinking” and pray they’ll just go away.  We build social barriers that clearly delineate what we consider acceptable and what we don’t.  As much as possible, we retreat into our own safe place – far more comfortable in a world untroubled by “Them”.

For some, our safe place is our workplace.  For others, it’s our home.  For many, it’s that small group of friends we hang with.  For too many, however, the safest place on earth, the place where people and ideas we reject are kept at bay, the place where we never have to respond to contrarian ideas or mingle with unpleasant people has a special name.  It’s called “Church”.

There’s nothing wrong about wanting church to be a safe place.  In fact, the Elders pray for safety every Sunday morning.  We ask God for physical safety, for emotional safety, and most of all, spiritual safety.  We pray for a sanctuary where the presence of God is inescapable and the love of his people contagious.  All this is good and right.

The problems begin when we measure our level of safety in the wrong way or seek to achieve it by simply closing our doors to people and ideas we don’t like.  This may lead to an elevated level of comfort but comfort is not our calling.  We are called to go into the world (or post a welcome sign when the world comes to us).  The very people who upset us the most are often the ones most in need of our Savior.  Yet we turn away.

This isn’t a new problem.  Jesus’ disciples were “triggered” by the people he reached out to – the tax collector; the naked, demon possessed wild man; the prostitute; the Roman soldier; the Gentile; the Samaritan woman; the leper.  The disciples clearly thought the kingdom could do just fine without “them”.

I just finished a great book by Russell Moore – it’s called “Onward”.  It’s all about living for Christ in a culture that’s no longer Christ-friendly.  Toward the end, Moore warns about our attitude toward those who are different. Here’s what he wrote:

“The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin

Fish bumper decal.  The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynistic, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now.  The next Charles Spurgeon might be managing an abortion clinic right now.  The next Mother Teresa might be a heroin-addicted porn star right now.  The next Augustine of Hippo might be a sexually promiscuous cult member right now, just like, come to think of it, the first Augustine of Hippo was.”

Moore describes people who, in their present form, we would find disgusting.  If they entered our life, they would trigger all sorts of anxiety, revulsion, and fear.  We would do all we could to avoid their company.

But here’s Moore’s point.  When we exclude those, who make us uncomfortable, we risk alienating people for whom Jesus died and for whom he has great plans.  If we seek safety by turning our backs on those most in need of God’s grace, how will the Gospel be heard?  If we measure our safety by the ideas and people we avoid, how will we be the salt of the earth?  If we doubt God’s ability to protect us in the midst of our adversaries, how can we live a life of faith?

God doesn’t want us to flee the world.  Our job is to meet it full on.  With loving hearts, clear minds, and God-given confidence, we are required to enter the fray.  Like Jesus, we must engage those who scorn us, show kindness to those who laugh at us, love those who are our enemies.  It’s not a job for “snowflakes.”

But here’s some good news.  In the Book of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciple, Peter; “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”  It’s not the church needing to build walls and gates and high towers.  It’s Hell that’s under attack and when all is said and done, Hell doesn’t stand a chance.

Paul Wegner

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