Hell, the pit, Sheol, death. Sounds like Bible thumping, screaming, condemning verbal assaults coming from self-made preachers standing on street corners. If you have never heard one of these tirades, feel fortunate. I have been embarrassed that these harbingers of doomsday are called Christians. I prefer to align myself with the well-respected pastors and leaders in church whose demeanor is gentle, who have a teaching style, and who are quick to pat you on the back or give you a fatherly hug. I’m not alone; multitudes flock to the beauty of freshly oiled wooden arches over Renaissance art in stain glass windows, the efficiency of soft, padded chairs with back pockets for Bibles, pencils, and offering envelopes, and the visual and sound stimulation of a high-tech audio/video system complete with theatre lights and digital recording for posterity.
Ezekiel 31:8 No tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty. I made it beautiful with a multitude of branches, So that all the trees of Eden envied it, that were in the garden of God. I have enjoyed living in the shade of such a beautiful tree, a church, a house of worship, a refuge for the hurting, and an outreach to the community. I have noticed that over time, however, my evangelistic energy has waned; I now allow volunteer opportunities to fall to others, and I am challenged to attend church services even once a week, sometimes forgetting to bring my checkbook. Like the words to the TobyMac song Made to Love, “Whatever happened to a passion I could live for?”
Meanwhile, God is working still. Lives are being broken, sinners are becoming saints, and saints are falling into sin. Where am I in that day? Ezekiel 29:21 In that day I will cause the horn of the house of Israel to spring forth, and I will open your mouth to speak in their midst. Then they shall know that I am the Lord. Am I prepared to be the mouth of the Lord? Do I see when my brother stumbles or do I laugh it off in disbelief? Do I accept God’s will as righteous or rationalize away His judgments? Am I willing to turn back a soul from death with truth or be satisfied offering tissues for tears?
James 5:19-20 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. As much as I am repulsed by pulpit-pounding and finger-pointing from zealots, I cannot deny an eventual need to abandon my preferences of comforting religious etiquette. Not only am I dulling my sense of purpose in Christ to spread the Gospel, but I am insulating myself from those around me who are on the proverbial cliff. God calls prophets who will open their mouths to speak words like, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live, Ezekiel 33:11. Without this message, what is the alternative? Without a messenger, who will bring the words of life?