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A Reformed Biweekly
April 14, 2014
Reclaiming our first love
Brent van Staalduinen

 our small group digs through Revelation 2 and talks about social justice and our place in this world. We worry about the rhetoric and exaggeration the media loves to sling, particularly from believers who are eager to be heard as quickly and loudly as possible.  
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people [. . .] You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. [. . .] If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Rev. 2:2-5).
We talk a lot about that first love and what it looked like. There’s a palpable frustration about the assumptions we often make, where we assume everyone should believe what we do and are distressed when our principles and precepts seem to lose traction. We speak of attacks on values, the decay of morals, the threat towards ethical standards.
We throw up our hands and say how frightening it is to think about the loss of all those things. How it seems like we’re always fighting losing battles. How difficult it is to find purchase on slopes greased with the desires of an immoral world.
Then someone wonders aloud what it would look like if we just gave up fighting and let the world run rampant so we could return to the roots of our faith.
Really, she asks, would that be so bad?

Again and again, and louder

I’ve been wrestling with that question for a while now. How it seems like the only noises we’re making these days are defensive. And how no one seems to be listening. Can’t anyone see, we cry, just how dangerous all of these anti-Christian beliefs and values are to our precious, moral society?
And when no one responds, we get louder. We plaster brutal anti-abortion banners over highways featuring evacuated fetuses. We grab everyone around us, shake them, and tell them how dangerous it is to lose prayer in public schools. We picket Parliament Hill en masse and chant about gay marriage’s threat to traditional family values. Look for wicked people. False apostles.
Our words seem right, fair, responsible, logical, biblical. But our tone seems to speak a different language, as though we’re fighting to persevere through unthinkable hardship. As though the changing world around us should sympathize when, in fact, its experience is growing further and further from those values we assert are under threat.
We didn’t work for, create or establish those ideals and values yet we still feel as though we should have more than merely protection and support. Society, our tone says, should actively espouse our beliefs even when its communities aren’t woven from the same yarn as our fraying social fabric. We forget that living in Christ’s creation doesn’t mean that we’re living in a Christian world, and it never has.
Our founding Judeo-Christian ethics abandoned! Religion under attack! Faith under fire! Freedom under assault! Persecution!
An incredulous world steps back, looks at us askance, and asks us to repeat ourselves. We don’t see the ironic disbelief in the question, so we do. Again and again and again.

Faith in our own image

I often wonder what it is we’re really worried about. God certainly isn’t mocked, and there isn’t a thing we or anyone else can do to diminish him or the core of his message. Yet our voices and the desperate tone we’ve adopted as necessary for survival suggest that maybe we’re not that confident in him or his sacrificial son.
I think we’re worried about losing control, facing the possibility of having to fight for every convert like those seven churches had to. It’s so easy to be Christian in the West that we’ve recreated our faith in our own image, forsaking the love we had at first and replacing it with the fear-driven lust of self-interest. We’ve fallen, even as we’ve tried to elevate ourselves.
Maybe it’s time to return to the ground, on our knees, and let the world do what it does as we focus on loving those around us. Repentance. Feeding our neighbour. Re-lighting that lampstand whenever the world snuffs it out.
Really, would that be so bad?  

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