Saturday, June 12, 2010

Older Friend

I’m rereading a book called Father Elijah. It’s my fourth or fifth time through. It’s written by Michael D. O’Brien. It’s apocalyptic literature from a Roman Catholic perspective. It’s well written. In some sense it is provocative. It draws me closer to Jesus. It’s certainly not written in the same predictive, prophetic form apocalyptic best sellers are known for. Instead there are subtleties of style and understanding that go far beyond what we’re accustomed to in evangelical writings of the end times.

Father Elijah is about good and evil. It is about God and His enemies. It is about friendship with God and wrestling with evil. It is about the people of God who slowly, but surely start unraveling the sure foundations of faith. And it’s about the whole notion of spiritual warfare. Some scoff at such things. I don’t for I see evidence of it swirling in and among us. Often, it is out of sight. More often than not it is quite evident but rarely acknowledged. Is there, indeed, a wrestling match going on for our heart and soul? I believe so for I bear the wounds of it. It is real to me.

Sometimes when I write or talk about such things I wonder if some label me a ‘religious fanatic’ or ‘pedestrian’ in thought and word. No one wants to be so casually dismissed and inaccurately labeled. Yet that is the risk we take these days.

It is not an exaggeration to state that we have an enemy who wants to rob and steal from us. Scripture is clear on that. The evil one is not a cute little cartoon character sitting on one’s shoulder whispering sweet nothing and evil distraction into our ears. There is nothing cute in him. He is the ‘father of lies’. And for some reason God allows him some reign in today’s world. I don’t completely understand it but I accept it. And because I believe it I must walk through this world with some degree of awareness of the different pulls on my life. God has my heart. God’s enemy wants to crush my heart.

We live in a world where belief comes hard to people. To believe in Christ, for example, comes at the exclusion of other things. We don’t like to exclude. We want to be inclusive, open, and accepting. We choose to believe in all things and in reality end up believing not in much at all.

I love to meet other people from other faith backgrounds. I love diversity. Inclusiveness and diversity spice up life. Coming to grips with common understanding and finding common ground is essential. I’m all for it. But I believe in Jesus. He is not Buddah nor Krishna. He is not the Muslim prophet. He is more. Much more. And when I state that in even the most loving ways I can feel people distance themselves from me. Even Christian people. We live in a world where inclusiveness actually excludes. Can one live in today’s world and still live with conviction and a sense of life changing truth?

The Jesus I know is not an ideologue. He is a strangely mysterious yet very personal presence. He has a particular style that invites all to His table but challenges assumptions about life and belief. We all love the invitation. We struggle with the challenges, don’t we?

Perhaps we live in a world that is so tired that it doesn’t want to deal with the challenges of good and evil. Oh, we’re more than willing to point fingers at others but are less adept at looking deep inside to see the battle waging within. And so we don’t look deep, or spend time wrestling with our own personal demons, or wade into the exhausting world of ideas and dialogue. Do we choose a personal purgatory in a world called ‘whatever’ and call it a day? If so, do we actually become one of the building blocks of an apocalyptic age and unwittingly choose sides in the cosmic drama? I think so. And the side where ‘whatever’ dwells is not the side of God.

Good books are a treasure. Father Elijah is one I mine frequently enough. It is becoming an older friend inviting me into the deeper things of God.

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