The Christian must do the difficult…
“Lord,” someone asked Him, “will only a few people be saved?” Jesus answered, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. After the master of the house gets up and shuts the door, you will stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ But he will reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’… (Luke13:24)
Lenten Prayer: Lord, inflame our hearts and our inmost beings with the fire of Your Holy Spirit, that we may serve You with chaste bodies and pure minds. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Ora Pro Nobis.
Today’s Lenten reflection is a difficult one but also an encouraging thought. Chesterton confronts us all about what defines Christianity. He does so by highlighting what Christ Himself has warned us: that Christianity is difficult, that grace as its dilute meaning has come to be understood in our day, is missing the entire point James is making about faith and works. That kind of “grace” that excuses and pays mere lip service to genuine Christianity doesn’t match up to the rest of what Christ is telling us. Moreover, the Christian who has pondered it through will come to the same observation as Chesterton did: that some of the persecutions that came to Christians throughout the Ages came not from a pure and unwarranted hatred of Christians practicing their faith in truth, but out of an hypocrisy from those professing to be Christians.
The professing Christian, for all intent and purpose, is no different in their practice and treatment of others than the prevailing political norm. Certain scriptures will be highlighted over others and some totally misapplied in order to serve some sensual and commodious purpose. And both political sides have professing Christians who do this. Some, though, are worse in their degree of deviation than others.
Many of the latter books of the Bible warn of this situation, but none so emphatic and stark than the Book of Jude.
“Woe to them! They have traveled the path of Cain; they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam; they have perished in Korah’s rebellion. These men are hidden reefs in your love feasts, shamelessly feasting with you but shepherding only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried along by the wind; fruitless trees in autumn, twice dead after being uprooted.…” ( Jude 1:11)
We may tend to think of our internal problems as isolated and not affecting this world. But Chesterton points out that this is very short-sighted of those whom the world expects to be its only “light” out of the darkness. When the world is disappointed with us, its hatred is only intensified from the hatred it normally feels toward being told its wrong.
Giving our best then truly becomes a life or death matter.
“Of course, I mean that Catholicism was not tried; plenty of Catholics were tried, and found guilty. My point is that the world did not tire of the church’s ideal, but of its reality. Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through the churchmen. But at the same time hostile elements had certainly begun to end it long before it could have done its work. In the nature of things it needed a common scheme of life and thought in Europe. Yet the mediaeval system began to be broken to pieces intellectually, long before it showed the slightest hint of falling to pieces morally. The huge early heresies, like the Albigenses, had not the faintest excuse in moral superiority. And it is actually true that the Reformation began to tear Europe apart before the Catholic Church had had time to pull it together. The Prussians, for instance, were not converted to Christianity at all until quite close to the Reformation. The poor creatures hardly had time to become Catholics before they were told to become Protestants. This explains a great deal of their subsequent conduct. But I have only taken this as the first and most evident case of the general truth: that the great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” – G. K. Chesterton, The Unfinished Temple, What’s Wrong With the World, 1910