I profess that I tend to be an adolescent minded Christian . It’s true. By and large, I live my Christian life like a middle school kid playing Cowboys and Indians. Cops and Robbers. Good Guys v. Bad Guys.
I study theology. But not so I can attain intimacy with Christ. I study so that I can feel right about myself. It’s a way of loading my gun. I pride myself on knowing the right things about God, on being Orthodox. I want to be Orthodox so that I can hide myself inside an iron clad fortress of Theology, the way a Sheriff might barricade himself inside the jail when the bad guys come to town. I surround my Orthodoxy with a plethora of hired guns – Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Spurgeon, Piper, and Keller. I recruit all the deputies I can, just in case a fight breaks out. I pin the tin star of my pastoral position right above my heart as proof of my Legitimacy. The star sparkles and shines and says “Sheriff” in bold letters and it gleams bright in the high noon sun.
I love to chase after bad guys: to go after “black-hatted” pastors and“half-shaven” theologians whom I consider ‘borderline’ apostate. I sit on the high ridge of theological integrity with my Westminster Winchester, cocked and ready, waiting to spot a stain-lipped false prophet. This gives me a cock-eyed sense of purpose and a mis-guided sense of clarity; a satisfied feeling that I’m able to discern the bad guys from the good guys and affirms that I’m on the good guys’ side. I’m the Sheriff. I’m the Law. The Man. I keep the theological outlaws on lock down. I wear a white hat. I carry a big gun. And If need be, I know how to gather a posse and set out after the renegades, whether it be the Osteen Gang or the McLaren Boys. I’m not afraid. I have a job to do, and by-god, I aim to do it.
But it’s just a game. In reality, I’m just an imaginative middle schooler. My Orthodoxy is the warm bed that I sleep in at night, pulling the covers over my head, like a little kid reading the comics with a flash light; reading the great feats of “real” superheroes; guys that I imagine also shoot up bad guys and protect the townspeople. With my white hat hanging on the bedpost, I dream, “Maybe someday, when I grow up, I will be just like Calvin?”
Now, to be clear, the Gospel I trust in is the true Gospel. I believe that. But it’s the true Gospel in the hands of a child. Instead of the Gospel operating as it should, as the life-giving reality of the Risen Christ pouring the Grace of Jesus out on me, a sinner – Grace that forgives my idolatry, arrests my Heart, humbles my arrogance, pours contempt on my pride, and fills my heart with the Love of God – the Gospel simply becomes a weapon. Something I use to protect myself. Something I use to scare people.
Oh Jesus! Help me. Convict me with the truth of the Gospel. Help me to remember that the Gospel is You. It is all about You, the God of the Universe, The Risen Christ, offering yourself to me, a half-cocked renegade who, under the guise of Orthodoxy, misuses Your Gospel for my own little playground game. I am not the good guy. I’m the bad guy. I am an ‘Osteen’ and a ‘McLaren’. Only I am worse. Because I am the kid who has broken into his Father’s Gun closet and high-jacked a real gun. I treat The Gospel like my own little toy, when all the while, it’s real and it’s loaded. I’m just too dumb to know it. I’m not a Sheriff. I’m an infantile outlaw, playing about with religion, tossing around the Cross, making shooting sounds with my mouth as I fire off each bible bullet. I am a dangerous man. Playing childrens’ games with a real live loaded weapon.
God, please damn my adolescent idolatry. Help me to grow up. To stop pretending. To realize that life is not a game and that the Gospel is not a Gun.