People who eat decadent desserts sometimes sigh, “It’s to die for.” A woman might be shopping for a dress for a wedding or a gala event and find one that she says is “to die for.” Chocolate is such a beloved flavor in large segments of the population that anything dipped in chocolate is supposedly “to die for.”
In today’s culture, however, nobody is actually supposed to die. A growing number of people are very clear about their contention that humans are nothing but biochemical machines whose lives end at the time of physical death. Even people who claim to be “spiritual” may still believe that death is like turning off a light. The sense that this life is all there is makes people very aggressive about preventing death.
The March of Dimes works to prevent premature births, because many prematurely born infants either do not survive or they survive with severe challenges. Political activists work to prevent gun deaths. Managed healthcare is supposed to prevent anybody from getting sick or suffering any accident that might result in illness or death.
Political and social advocates all declare that they want people to have longer, better lives, but it is still the case, as the Bible tells us, “It is appointed for man to die once.” (Hebrews 9:27) Every human being eventually dies.
Despite the universal knowledge that every human ever born will die, human beings value their lives and will go to extreme lengths to preserve them. Humans value life so much that they express the value of other things by comparing them with the value of life. That is why everyone wants to vacation in a resort that is “to die for.” Every man wants the dream car of this year’s new crop, because it is “to die for.” Rather than think the phrasing is ghoulish, when we discover that something is “to die for,” we esteem it very highly. We value something that is worth more than life itself.
It is highly incongruous that people who think chocolate is “to die for,” do not think an unborn baby has a right to live. It is completely inconsistent for advocates of national managed healthcare to declare that doctors must assist people to commit suicide. Yet these advocates say that “saving even one life” justifies gun control while simultaneously declaring that “a woman’s right to choose” justifies murder.
Sadly, many people who claim to possess something that genuinely is “to die for,” do not value that gift very highly. Many people meet Christ, the Son of the Living God, declare their faith in him, accept baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and rejoice in the promise of eternal life, yet these same people shudder to speak Christ’s name in the hearing of other people. They have neither the time nor the inclination to pray for people who do not know Christ. They even suggest that Christians should not be always saying the name of Christ and upsetting nonbelievers.
I call these people “secular Christians.” Some would say “Christians in name only,” but I think the real problem is that the secular culture applies insidious and blatant pressure to conform. Secular activism in the culture severely punishes people who reject secular values. Secularists belittle or verbally assault people who express faith in God or speak of the Bible with respect. Twitter attacks and public shaming on YouTube look almost demonic at times.
To avoid such attacks and in the hope of blending in with the secular culture, secular Christians water down Christian teachings and principles. The secular move to elevate consensus over decisions based on principle leads secular Christians to believe there is something wrong with a religion that is out of step with the culture. Secular Christians almost faint when confronted with Christians who actually believe that the Bible is true and that Jesus is the only way to God. They cannot bring themselves to speak of God as the heavenly “Father.” “That is deeply offensive, exclusionary and sexist,” they say.
Secular Christians prefer to adapt to the times. They do not want to be accused of being on the wrong side of history.
Secularists declare that the Bible is a dusty, outdated book, and secular Christians immediately declare that the church has outgrown the Bible. Secularists declare that humans have evolved into beings who have the right and responsibility to work out their own gender identity; secular Christians declare that God is kind and wants everyone to be whatever gender feels right. When secular thinkers declare that the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a relic of ancient social discrimination, secular Christians declare that Christians who believe that the plain language of the Bible proscribes homosexuality do not know how to read the Bible. When secular Christians encounter social and political activism that denies the truth of Christ’s teachings, they apologize for the offensive words of Christians who taught the truth in the past.
Christians must remember that Christ is “to die for.” Christians face immense social and legal pressure when they act on their God-given right to choose Christ and their constitutional right to exercise their faith. Jesus warned us long ago to expect exactly this sort of thing, and he told us what we had to do about it. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35) In other words, Jesus said that faith in him is “to die for.”
Nobody takes up a cross as a fitness exercise. He takes up a cross in order to carry it to the place where he will die on it. Every Christian must recognize every day that Christ is “to die for.”
One of the persistent myths propagated by secular thinkers is the image of Christ’s church as a social club. Atheists in some communities have even appropriated the idea of Sunday gatherings for song and inspiring words, noting that it is a good way to enrich one’s social life. They devise little rituals to reinforce whatever ideas they value. They invite their friends and hope to make new ones by gathering for cheerful sharing.
Sadly, some churches seem to have adopted the same view. During the time supposedly devoted to worship and exhortation to faith in God, they discuss human rights and UN programs. Rather than tell someone about Jesus, they drop boxes of winter coats at the offices of non-profit charities. Instead of hymns and prayers that reinforce the teachings and truths of the Bible, they turn churches into concert venues. Some churches do not much resemble Christ’s vanguard, armed with truth, righteousness, readiness to share the gospel, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer. Too many Christians choke at the thought of saying, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
In the USA people are not being beheaded or crucified for being Christians. Not yet. Maybe Christians have a little more time to learn that Christ is “to die for.”
By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.
Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for the winter of 2016.