To Build A Fire

To Build A Fire November 10, 2017

Screen Shot 2016-10-15 at 9.10.12 AMBy John Frye

“The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances.” To Build A Fire, by Jack London

An unnamed man, a newcomer to the Yukon, tries to hike all day through deep snow with temperature of 75 degrees below zero. That is 107 degrees below freezing. While passionate to stay alive and reach his friends at a remote camp, he made some unfortunate mistakes. He was alert to things, but not to the significance of things. “Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a thought that never entered his head.” His only companion, a husky, a wolf-dog, had animal intelligence superior to the man’s. The dog’s instincts signaled that the situation was very dangerous. Sadly, the man with his hands and feet frozen falls exhausted to the ground. In a comforting sleep, he dies.

I cannot shake the sense that Jack London’s 1908 short story still speaks today. The evangelical church in America is on a journey through a chilling, increasingly hostile culture. Evangelical leaders speak, sometimes shout, about many things. The most dangerous, in my opinion, is the call for a continuing alliance of the church with US political power. Some church leaders, in seeking a voice in the public square, are freezing out the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Far too many Christian leaders are courting political alliances believing that those alliances surpass the transformational energies of Jesus Christ’s invasion into human lives. Political ballots surpass Bibles in shaping the church in this nation. What’s Santayana’s famous quote? “Those who are ignorant of the past are doomed to repeat it.” Are any of these current Christian leaders aware of the messages of the Old Testament prophets to the Northern and Southern kingdoms? Like those threatened kingdoms, the church cannot, must not replace reliance on God so that the church is invited to eat at the table of world powers, including the USA. If church history teaches us anything, it is that prayer meetings, seemingly out of style today, possess more potential to transform societies than vote counts.

In Jack London’s story, the inexperienced hiker, recalls how he laughed at the man at Sulphur Creek who warned him about how cold in could get in the Yukon Trail country. By deadly experience the lone hiker learns the significance of things of the things he knew.

Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey presenting himself as Israel’s true king. The religious leaders in Jerusalem rejected Jesus, fearing that their tenuous alliances with Rome might bring down Rome’s judgment and those leaders would lose the temple and their power (John 11:48). Jesus weeps over Jerusalem’s official rejection of him and says this, “If you, even you, had known on this day what would bring you peace. … you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:42, 44). Joel Green notes, “…Jerusalem [via her leaders], in its failure to recognize the significance of Jesus’ advent at its gates, has reached the point of no return” (The Gospel of Luke, NICNT, 690, emphasis mine).

This post is a call to the leaders of the evangelical church in the US to cry out to God for discernment. We need to quit arguing about “the things” of our country and seek God’s mind about the significance of the things. I call out to Christians on both the political Right and Left to ask for Spirit-sourced discernment: the significance of things. Jesus is always at the gates. Jesus himself is always riding in. What will we do with him? By the way, Jesus is never on a Democratic, Republican, or Independent ballot. Political idolatry must end or we can say “hello” to our versions of Assyria and Babylon.





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