An Epistle to Christians in America

The below epistle was written at a writer’s workshop in 2009. I had the idea to write a modern-day letter in the style of Paul the Apostle, and that was about the extent of my involvement in this piece. Truly, I felt inspired. When I came to the end, I stared at the computer screen in wonder, because while I did remember typing the whole thing, I didn’t really remember writing it. I sought publication because it was required as part of the workshop, but my query letter was rejected. I’ve been holding on to this epistle since then, letting it wait until a publication clairvoyantly contacted me and requested it, I guess. Yesterday at church, I was inspired to update the ending a bit and post the whole thing here. It does no good sitting in a digital file, but perhaps someone, somewhere, will feel the prodding of the Spirit to share their testimony and give glory to God. Hosanna!

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 Angela, follower of Christ Jesus, to the dear brothers and sisters who are in the United States: Greetings!  Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who, being not fearful of nor threatened by post-modern humans or their words, laws, or nuclear weapons, empowers us with His Spirit and charges us with the privilege of spreading the excellent news of His Resurrection and of the free gift of eternal life!  For it is He who forsook His riches and glory to walk amongst us and to give Himself as the perfect, spotless sacrifice for our sins.  For this and for all His many blessings upon His undeserving creation, be glory and honor unto Him both now and forevermore!  Amen.

Brothers and sisters, what is this I hear of American Christians who, in the name of political correctness, keep their faith unto themselves only?  Should we hide the light of life within our hearts as though it were ours to keep?  May it never be!

Dear ones, be not deceived by the lying statement that it is better to preach the precious Gospel with our lives rather than with our words, which we should supposedly use only when necessary.  For, it was not the respected evangelist St. Francis of Assisi, venerated champion of our cause, who burdened us with such worthless words1!  Rather, his legacy stands as a shining example of the sort of follower our Christ dearly loves, and his very life disproves the wretched advice that so wrongly bears his name!  For it was he who charged all who converted through his leadership “to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps2.” Would such an individual then suggest that we abandon exactly what Christ commanded and lived?

Furthermore, I hear reports that some of you have actually built entire philosophies of proselytization upon such a heresy, and that you are, consequently, valuing your own comfort and earthly reputation more highly than the riches you would otherwise accrue in the life to come.  Was it for your silence that Christ Jesus died?  Did our Savior endure grief and sorrow so that you might treasure yourself more highly?  Were His wounds inflicted so that they might be your personal secret?

Now let us discuss, in more human terms, the effectiveness of such a gross distortion of the Great Commission3. While keeping our lips firmly shut and living a respectable life, what service do we do to our religion?  Do we not simply reflect the indulgent, permissive, and so-called politically-correct universalists who permeate our society and stand for nothing?  As we imitate those around us in polite behavior, seeking to avoid offense, we nurture within us the damnable habit of filtering from our speech the Truth, and, in so doing, we hatefully deprive those lost in their sins of the revelatory knowledge of freedom in Christ.  By our silence, we bury in our hearts the sole key to their shackles.

Dear Family, I write not with a spirit of condemnation, but rather out of an unbearable burden to destroy this epidemic of complacency that is so rapidly infecting the Church.  Although it is true that we live in a time of religious spinelessness and moral relativity, we should not allow the cultural majority to hinder us in our obedience to the one true God.  Too often, brothers and sisters, I have heard those who claim to love our Christ cite our country’s policy of religious freedom as a reason to keep silent.  What irony!  This sacred right, along with her glorious twin sister, Freedom of Speech, which was written by God into our earthly government’s Constitution, is the selfsame reason we should find ourselves unable to stop speaking!

But I do not admonish you, beloved, without first closely examining the heart and soul of the very same one who humbly composes this letter.  For she who so boldly proclaims the truth of Christ in black and white also suffers greatly from the cultural climate which gave her birth.  Although we are born into death, we are made alive through Christ, and this rebirth must generate within us a boldness to share what has given us the hope to look toward tomorrow.  For it is to our shame that our brothers and sisters across the globe suffer not from a similar timidity, but rather speak plainly the name of Christ in the face of utter horror.  Expecting torture and death as their only earthly repayment, these true followers proclaim all the more boldly the name of the only hope and salvation the world can ever know.  How much more should we, who stand only to lose a friend or an argument, take advantage of the freedom so lovingly entrusted to us?  For our gracious heavenly Father has seen fit to offer us this great gift; but, my dear ones, with great privilege comes great responsibility.

So it is with sincere humility and with immense fervor that I adjure you, sons and daughters of our great King, to treasure your Savior more highly than your friendships and to value your friends’ eternal future more highly than your own present comfort.  For, when all is laid bare before our final Judge, He will judge us not by the number of friends we have collected, but rather by the number of sheep we have welcomed into the fold.

We must, therefore, look expectantly upward to the one and only source of our courage and comfort as we obediently fulfill the Great Commission, that is, to make disciples of all nations.  For how else can we make disciples, if not with our mouths?

Remember those in chains for the Gospel.  Brother Gao in China, who has suffered greatly for these last eight years, will surely benefit much from our prayers4. Also, remember our sister Asia in Pakistan, as she suffers greatly behind bars for the cause of Christ5. Perhaps, through their wounds and their witness, more precious ones will be brought into the Family.

Grace and peace be with you, dear ones, in the name of our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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  1. Mark Galli, “Speak the Gospel,” Christianity Todayhttp://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/mayweb-only/120-42.0.html (accessed July 27, 2009).
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, “Saint Francis of Assisi,” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/216793/Saint-Francis-of-Assisi (accessed July 27, 2009).
  3. Matt. 28:16-20.
  4. The Voice of the Martyrs, PrisonerAlert.com, http://prisoneralert.com/ (accessed March 25, 2013).
  5. Ibid.

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©Angela Wade 2009-2013. All rights reserved.

 

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Next Time

One time…
I felt God urging me to turn and talk to a person behind me in line at Kohl’s during Christmas. To see how I could bless her. I didn’t want to, so I literally said, “No,” in my head. To God. Almighty. The Creator of Heaven and Earth. (You really shouldn’t say no to Him.) I immediately felt conviction for it, of course, and I had time to change my mind and obey. Plenty of time, really, since it was Christmas and the line was looooong. Still resolved not to talk to her, however, I made up a new plan about how I could just buy a gift card for whomever ended up behind me when my cashier became available for the next customer. (You really shouldn’t try to bargain with Him, either.) Hey, it could end up being her, if that’s what God really wanted. Well, it didn’t, and it wasn’t. God didn’t want me to give her — or anyone — a gift card; He wanted me to talk to that one woman behind me. Sadly, I was too fearful of looking weird to her, of not knowing what to say.

Failure.

One time…
In college, a history professor went on a rant about how the Bible was not true history — that it was mostly myth and couldn’t be trusted. That stance itself is myth, and I knew it, but I was 20-ish, while he was Dr. somebody who had studied history for years. An older student did offer a dissenting opinion while I inwardly cheered, but then the professor quickly shot him down. I stayed silent. I was too fearful of being embarrassed in front of everyone because I wouldn’t have all the answers.

Failure.

One time…
A woman was going on and on about the importance of good deeds, saying how I was making her cry because of how good I was. She told me that she tapes Ellen every day because she’s just so touched at the woman’s charity. When she asked me why I was doing such-and-such, I told her that I was just trying to be a blessing. Then she told me how great it was and that her father had been a preacher. He’d always said that “it didn’t matter what you believed, as long as you believed.” My spirit objected, but my mouth stayed shut. Never did I say that I was doing such-and-such because of what Christ did for me. Never did I take the obviously free opening and correct her preacher father’s “theology.” Never. I left her, someone with a sensitive, servant’s heart, at the feet of Ellen Degeneres because I was too fearful of having an awkward conversation.

Failure.

One time…
I was sitting on the studio floor before yoga class began, reading Don Quixote. (Yes, I regularly read books that people typically only read in school. I’m currently reading The Scarlet Letter. Former English teacher here.) Anyhow, I was about 15 minutes early, and so were two or three others. The instructor walked in, her usual effervescent self, saying hello to the others. (Maybe to me, too, but she knew them personally, which I’d previously figured out, so I kept my nose in my book and tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore their chatter and continue reading.) She talked about her gratitude journal, and shared a page with one of the ladies who went on about how profound it was.  Still trying to ignore them, I re-read the same paragraph for the third time, annoyed. Suddenly, the instructor jumped up, clapped her hands, and exclaimed to the room, “Oh! Do you all want to see a picture of God’s face?!” Now this caught my attention, mostly because she generally talked about gratitude toward the “universe,” and her mentioning God really surprised me, but also because I did want to see a picture of God’s face, but I didn’t think she had one. Still desiring to stay under the radar — my M.O. — I kept my eyes steadied on my book, waiting for an opportune moment to catch a peek at whatever picture she was touting. I never did, but I didn’t need to anyway. In response to a couple of “Aww!”s, she explained that it was her grandbaby. And “what could be a better picture of God?”

I was stunned. I literally stopped breathing. My spirit screamed inside of me, and I felt like I was going to explode. I know I hear blasphemy all the time, but I’d never heard anything so blatant. I wasn’t angry; I was really alarmed and horrified. But I did nothing. Although I don’t know precisely what God wanted me to do or say, since I didn’t really ask Him, nothing certainly wasn’t it. And I knew it. I was too fearful of the response to do anything; I feared men over God. I didn’t even walk out. 

Failure.

The enemy tells me that I’m shy, and that that’s okay. That I can stay true to what I believe personally and stay quiet. God made me an introvert. It’s just my personality. It would be great if I were outgoing, but I’m just not. That’s fine, too. I am who I am, and I shouldn’t beat myself up about it.

That is a lie. He’s distorting the truth. I’m incredibly embarrassed and humbled to admit that, despite my boldness behind a computer screen, I have so often kept my mouth shut when I knew — I knew — God was telling me to speak up. I have embraced the lie that my personality gives me a free pass, and I have accepted it as my excuse for disobedience.

I have failed — a lot. I struggle immensely with this. God, however, is bigger. My introversion, while it’s a fact of my God-given personality and is not a deficiency, must not be the crutch I so readily make it into. It’s okay to be shy, but it’s not okay to be disobedient. The enemy wants to use my record of failures as evidence to keep me from ever obeying God in this way, but I know that I’ll never be any use to the Kingdom if I don’t let go of my failures and trust God. I must forget the past and look ahead to so many possibilities of success next time!

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13b-14 ESV)

This post is part of the Blog Carnival hosted at Peter Pollock’s blog.  Go there and read other submissions on the word “failures.”