I have a friend who used to live in a large midwestern city infamous for its corruption. (“Vote early and often!”) He experienced what he had always heard about: the corruption, fueled by organized crime, was woven deeply into the bureaucracy and fabric of daily life. To undo it would be like taking the egg out of a cake that was already baked. There was no use fighting it, no one to appeal to. It was just the way it was.
What strikes me about my friend’s experience is just how subtle it all was. No ham-fisted goons in pinstripe suits showing up at the door to demand an extortion payment lest they break your knees. People just dealt with it by entering into a long series of subtle agreements with the status quo.
In this week’s reflection on the Discipline of Rejoicing that we must enter into in order to dethrone false gods in our life (and keep them dethroned), we turn to the subtle agreements that allow us to settle for less than a life of true satisfaction in Christ. (I’m indebted to the ministry of Ransomed Heart for helping me explore this in my own life.)
Think back to Genesis 3 and the story of Adam and Eve falling for the serpent’s lie: “Did God really say…?” Come on, talking snake and all, it should have seemed pretty obvious, right? We default to the opinion that Adam and Eve were really dumb at this point. But consider that they were unbroken, whole people in intimate daily communion with God, man and woman in all their glory. The truth is that the serpent was a really, really good liar.
Jesus called the devil, our Enemy, the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44), not the Father of Obvious Ploys, or the Father of Buffoonery. He is a liar, and we are being lied to all the time. The most dangerous lies are the subtlest ones, justifiable fictions and half-truths that lead us, like a cow eating one tuft of grass after another, over the hill to a different pasture.
We all too easily enter into agreements based on these lies. For example, when it comes to our experience in relationship with God, “this is about as good as it’s going to get.” Or “God might show up and help me out in a crisis, but otherwise I’m pretty much on my own.” Or, “As long as God doesn’t ask too much of me, I’m in.”
There are a million ways that we settle for less by believing the lies (they always seem so true)…and usually without realizing it. As Stasi Eldredge writes, “The kingdom teeters on the hundred small choices we make every day.”
But Jesus, who zealously wants the place in our lives that are threatened by our agreements, also wants to help us recognize them. He will help us, when asked, to fight them, resist them, send them packing. Then we become able, finally, to hear the truth and rejoice in it!
For more on this, check out https://www.ransomedheart.com/
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. Check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.