Pastor Note #84 — Surrender to an “Interfering God”

Western Pennsylvania forest scene; photo by GAC

In his spiritual memoir, Surprised by Joy, the great Christian writer, C. S. Lewis, admits that from the days of his youth one of the things he disliked most in adults was their tendency to interfere with his life.  “No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word Interference.”  He notes that it was precisely this dislike for outside interference in his life which by his adolescent years made him hostile to the Christian faith.  “Christianity,” he recognized, “placed at the center what them seemed to me a transcendental Interferer.”

Finally, in his early thirties, God began to get a grip on him.  Yet, still he resisted on this same point.  “Remember,” he writes, “I had always wanted, above all things, not to be ‘interfered with.’  I had wanted (mad wish) ‘to call my soul my own.’”  As God drew Lewis toward faith, it was this issue that held him back.  Yet, on this point, Lewis realized, God would not negotiate.  “Total surrender . . . was demanded. . . . The demand was not even ‘All or nothing.’  I think that stage had passed. . . . Now the demand was simply ‘All’.”

It’s this core reality of the Christian faith that makes it very unsuitable as a hobby.  Hobbies are activities you do in your spare time, when you have nothing really important or pressing that you have to do.  Hobbies do not make a total claim on your life.  Of course, people do try to take the Christian faith into their lives as a sort of hobby – when they’re in the mood, when they’ve got some spare time, when it’s not too inconvenient.  Most churches have lots of members who approach the Christian faith as a hobby.

Hobby Christianity can be pleasant enough.  It never imposes on your time, because hobby Christianity is something you only do when it doesn’t interfere with anything else in your life.  Hobby Christianity is something that you only do when it’s convenient.  You give your hobby Christianity only your spare time and your spare change.  People who let their hobbies consume too much of their time, to much of their energy, too much of their money are at risk of becoming some sort of fanatic.  And everyone knows that people who let their hobbies consume them are people who have let their priorities get out of balance.

Slippery Rock Creek; photo by GAC

Hobby Christianity is all well and good, if you are looking for a way to meet some generally decent people and do some good deeds.  But you will certainly never meet God through that kind of Christianity.  In fact, I can make no promises to the hobby Christian about his or her eternal destiny.

The God that demanded “All” from C. S. Lewis is the God we meet in the Bible.  “I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1 ESV)  True Christianity is a faith of sacrifice.  True Christianity is lived out when it is convenient and when it is inconvenient.  True Christianity can be lived out only by those who know that they are no longer their own, that they are no longer masters of their own lives nor of their time nor of their possession.

Western Pennsylvania Woodland Scene; photo by GAC

If you want to meet God, if you want to experience the fullness of life, Jesus tells you how.  “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”  (Mark 8:34-36 NLT)


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