The Poison Pill

There’s an analogy about Jesus and Hell and Salvation that I’ve heard a number of times in my life: that people have been poisoned and they will die without the antidote. The poison is sin, death is hell and the antidote is salvation. So we seek to get people to pray the prayer of salvation in order that they would be saved from hell.

I don’t think this analogy is a very good one. Here’s why:

If I get bit by a snake, I’ll drink the antidote and the poison will be gone. Then I’ll go about my life the same way I did before I took the antidote.

Jesus isn’t a quick fix. You don’t pray a prayer of salvation and find that sin has disappeared and you just bide your time until heaven calls you home.

We stress the need for people to make a ‘decision for Jesus’. We see it as the determining factor on whether they end up in heaven or hell for eternity. We say things like ‘God will write your name in the book of life’ if you respond to the altar call.

Like God just has a holy excel spreadsheet and the only column next to each persons name is ‘Accepted Jesus’ with a yes or no in the field.

If I hurt somebody, and I tell them I’m sorry, than I walk away, was I really sorry? If I was really sorry, wouldn’t it show? Wouldn’t I try to make right what I caused to go wrong?

I don’t believe Jesus is after people who will just intellectually acknowledge that he is saviour. I believe he is after people who act like it.

Even Jesus gives an example that shows intellectual ascent isn’t what he or anybody else is after:

There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Matthew 21:28-31

The belief in God that the Pharisees had wasn’t the antidote to the “poison” of sin and the world.

And as James says, even the demons believe in God. They know Jesus was saviour. I don’t think the ‘antidote’ cured them.

What if I told you that you were poisoned, but that the antidote would cause you a great deal of pain? Would you still take it? You’d have to put some thought into it, right?

Because accepting Jesus means living a life of dying daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). It means that, at the minimum, you have to take up a cross (Matthew 10:38). It means living a life where you do the things you don’t want to do. (Romans 7:15).

How’s that for an antidote? Is that a quick, easy way to fix all your problems?

Jesus isn’t some snake oil cure all, but we make him out to be exactly that. Jesus hasn’t made my life easier. He’s made it better, but it isn’t without cost, and it certainly wasn’t some one-time thing.

The House Analogy

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis uses an analogy about being a Disciple of Jesus that I have found to be very meaningful lately.

Lewis says that our lives are like a house. Before we invite Jesus into our house, it is a filthy mess. A mess that we really aren’t able to do anything about. The plumbing and electricity don’t work properly, it’s dank and moldy, the whole thing is in a state of disrepair.

But when we invite Jesus in, he starts fixing the things that are broken. He starts cleaning up the place. We are ecstatic! This place that used to be so miserable and depressing is now becoming beautiful and joyful! We are so happy and thankful as Jesus makes the house livable.

Then, once he has finished repairing and cleaning up, we’re ready to enjoy living in the house with Jesus.

And that’s when he pulls out a sledge hammer and starts knocking down a wall. Then he rips the wallpaper off. Next he destroys the deck and starts pouring more foundation in its place so he can work on a new extension.

The thing is, God isn’t a housekeeper. He’s an architect. He’s not here to maintain the little house we’re in. He’s here to create the house he has in mind. And where the new house and the old house are not compatible, the old house has to go.

Early this year, God showed up in my life in a fresh and powerful way. He fixed several things that had worn down and broken. He cleaned the layer of dirt and dust that had covered everything, and I expected that with a clean house, it was time to start fulfilling my purpose.

But instead, he started renovations. I can’t get the party started while all this construction is going on. So I’ve had to wait, because demolition and construction takes time.

It’s easy to be excited when God is cleaning things up and making everything beautiful. It’s harder to keep your eyes on the goal when all the work he’s doing seems to be making a bigger mess.  But that’s what it takes for upgrades to occur.

So please, pardon my dust while God is working on me. Soon, I’ll be ready to fulfill the purpose that I’m being designed for by the ultimate builder.