Is the primary danger “out there”?

by Jonathan Trotter

Note: this post was inspired by this article by David French.

As a homeschooled-in-the-80s kid, I’m well versed in the terrified cry, “The danger is out there! The danger is out there!” I can remember watching The Village and feeling like M. Night Shyamalan had just made a film about my life. (My parents didn’t yell this too loudly, but we were Gothardites.)

But is the primary threat “out there”? No. It is not.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve received a fraction of the pushback that David French has, but still, I resonated deeply with this:

“I get an enormous amount of criticism for not critiquing the secular left more than I do. Yet if I’m concerned for the health of the church, then corruption at the highest levels of the world’s largest Christian university, sexual predation by arguably Christianity’s most influential apologist, widespread conspiracy theories, and disproportionate disregard for the health and well-being of neighbors do more harm than the worst of Joe Biden’s culture war regulations or the most radical developments in the sexual revolution.”

The whole article is excellent, but here are a few more quotes worth pondering:

“If your reaction is that the greatest threat to human souls or to the church itself comes from without—from the external forces attacking Christianity or from the cultural temptations buffeting our children—then that dictates a very different posture to the world and approach to politics than if you believe the true threats lie within.”

A different posture indeed.

I have seen this fear, this alarm:

“If you believe the most dangerous threats come from without, fear can rise in your heart. As you lose political and cultural power, and you see others shape the environment in which you live, then you start to have genuine alarm that other people are destroying the souls of those you love. What a terrifying idea.”

There is hope, of course.

At the end of the day, the Church remains his, and he still loves her. He still calls her to remember her first love. I want to still love her too. I want to build more than I tear down. I want to heed with every fiber of my being Jesus’ call: “Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.” (Matthew 8:22)

I want to love more than I fear.

I haven’t always done this, for sure. But I want to. I want to know Jesus more. I’m a few chapters in to Dane Ortlund’s new book, Gentle and Lowly, and it’s helping. It’s not about The Chosen, but it’s explaining, in theological terms, why the Jesus portrayed in The Chosen is so fascinating and healing and loving. He’s helping me understand why I cry every.single.episode.

Turns out, it’s because the stories are real. Ortlund writes, “Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger but open arms.” He goes on to say that Jesus’ “deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward” sin and suffering, not away from it.

Jesus is really like that.

And that is Good News indeed.

*Contains Amazon affiliate link.

Would You Even Like Jesus?

by Jonathan

Would you even like Jesus?

Would you like him if he came into your church and started yelling about houses of prayer? Or would you call him just another angry man?

Would you like him if he told you to sell even some of your stuff and give the proceeds to the poor? Or would you call him a socialist?

Would you like him if he told you to stop sleeping with people you weren’t married to? Or would you call him a legalist?

What if you realized he wasn’t a Republican?

Or a Democrat?

Or white?

Would you like him if you found him crying by himself on a hillside, talking about a rebellious city? Or would you call him an emotional wreck?

I don’t know, would I even like him?

What about the time he let those guys chop up an innocent man’s roof?

Would you like it if he hadn’t planned ahead and all of a sudden asked you to feed a few thousand people?

What would you think when he dozed off during a life-threatening storm?

He is not as tame as we make him, after all.

Would you like him when he let the prostitute get a little too close? Or would you start to wonder about his dedication to purity?

Would you like him when he befriended your political enemy, visiting his house and sharing a meal? Or would that be a red (or blue) line crossed?

You see, we sanitize and sanctify Jesus, stripping him of context and personality, until he looks (we think) like us.

But he’s not like us. Thank God.

So, would you like him?

What if he showed up in your deepest pain and you saw his eyes, red with mercy and compassion? Would you like him then?

What if you heard him cry, “Forgive them!” And you knew he was talking about you? Would you like him then?

Would you run to him, grasping his sleeve for acceptance and love?

He’d let you.

He’d love you.

He’d heal you.

After all, he liked you first.

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