By B.J. Funk
The New World Dictionary defines sleepwalking as “the act of walking while asleep.” I have known a few people like this in my life. Have you? They sleep while they are walking. Every day. To work. From work. In their home. They are never fully awake and alive to the excitement of living.
Specifically, some Christians fit neatly into this definition. They never seem to be alive to the soul-changing gospel that supposedly, at some point or another, woke them up to new possibilities and changed them from their self-serving ways. What happened after they “accepted Christ?” Was anything different? Or, did they go to the altar, make a confession of their sins, claim to be “born again,” and then sink back into a stupor of sleep, closing their eyes as they moved in and out of their days?
I am continually puzzled by the lack of love in these sleep-walkers. For example, let’s move with some of them to the local deli for lunch on Sunday, right after walking out of church. A young girl who works there told me last week that “Church folks are the meanest people standing in line. They are rude and demanding. And, they’ve just gotten out of church!” Waiters in restaurants add their complaints, “You should see how mean those church-folks are as they wait for their meal! It’s like they think they have some sort of special privilege, just because they are Christians. And tips? Well, you can know for sure that church-folks are the very worst tippers.”
This kind of summation of “church-folks” should make us cringe. I don’t want to be a church-folk. Do you? I want to be a Christian-folk. I want to be a Christ-follower, a born-again, changed forever believer. Is there a difference in church-folks and Christian-folks?
In his book Walking with Christ in the Details of Life, Patrick Morley helps us see this a little clearer when he writes, “The partially surrendered life may be Christian in spirit, but it is secular in practice. It may save one’s soul, but it hardly leaves a noticeable ripple on one’s lifestyle, life view, or the world and culture in which we live. Of what earthly value is Christianity if it leaves no indelible mark on one’s lifestyle? It is of no value in this life to be Christian, if you do not think Christianity — if you do not have a Christian life view.”
Morley goes on to define the problem. “It is the proposition that Jesus can be Savior without being Lord. It is the idea that one can add Christ, but not subtract sin,” he writes. “Many of us have merely added Christ to our lives as another interest in an already busy and otherwise overcrowded schedule. This sort of thinking has watered down the meaning of a personal relationship with Christ.”
What makes us think that we can give Christ the key to only part of our hearts? Who gave us the right to love some people and treat others with contempt? Who told Christians where to line up for a pass to forgo forgiveness? Where are Christians getting free tickets granting permission to hold a grudge? Which convenience store sells Christians a ticket to scratch, with hope of getting the winning ticket that states it is okay to be unkind?
Could it be that casual Christianity is winning? Somewhere this “do-whatever” message is trumping the true message of Christianity. Christians are learning to blend into the world, not to make a difference, not to consider sin.
I love to visit the writings of slain missionary Jim Elliott. He causes me to put down my designer bag, step out of my shiny patten leather shoes, and walk barefoot with Jesus on the dusty roads of Galilee, touching lepers along the way. Jim went to Mexico to visit missionaries and to begin learning Spanish. While there, he wrote, “Missionaries are very human folks, simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt a Somebody.” Around 1948, Jim wrote in his journal these words: “God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.”
His words were prophetic. He and four other young missionaries were murdered in the jungles of Ecuador as they sought to bring the gospel to primitive savages. After their deaths, no one in their families lined up for free tickets to hold a grudge, to be unkind or to forgo forgiveness. They lined up to spread the gospel, at whatever cost. Amazing stories of conversions eventually came from their deaths.
On any given Sunday, the line at the Deli has sleepwalking Christian folks needing a reminder that they are, like you and me, simply a bunch of nobodies trying to