Imagine that being a Christian suddenly became essential for daily chores. If you were not a Christian, service people would ignore you so you might have to wait weeks if not months to get an electrician to come to your home, to get a doctor’s appointment, to get your car repaired … If you went to a store, people would glare at you and sales people would go out of their way to call on everyone else, even anyone else before they would even look at you. All because you lacked a evidence that you were a committed Christian.
Imagine that this change happened, without warning, a dictatorship suddenly grabbed records from every church and interviewed your neighbors, testing to see if people thought you demonstrated a solid faith in Jesus Christ. They wanted to know if people had seen you praying, not merely at public events, but in private perhaps before meals at restaurants. They examined your Bibles for wear and tear checking to see if you used it for more than collecting dust. They asked people who sat near you in church if you did more than merely go through the motions. They compared your giving records with your income tax records, not what you gave when you learned about this edict, but what you gave freely before they came to power. They asked your neighbors if you ever invited them to church or at least talked about how your faith made a difference in your life. They looked especially if you had personally participated in mission, feeding those who are hungry, handing clothing to those who are poor, building housing for those who are homeless. Then they added up the results of the audit and decided if your actions merited calling you a real Christian.
“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness;
put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt,
and serve the Lord.
Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord,
choose this day whom you will serve,
whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living;
but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
– Joshua 24:14-15 (NRSV)
I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, October 11th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor