Set Apart: Social Spiritual Whiplash

[Penned in 2009, Columbia, South Carolina]

I feel caught between social spiritual whiplashes.

In one corner, I engage the sincere CIU (Columbia International University) bubble. I think they took 1 Peter too literally in identifying as a “peculiar” people. They exist in two camps: One walks in and out of drunken stupors of ultra spiritual experiences — casting out devils because it is such a high. The other camp simply takes God at His Word — no need for those fickle feelings — and Bible-thumps the street corners of 5-points, casting fleshly devils, sinful men and women, beneath the full weight of the law.

In the other corner of the bubble, the Anti-Bubble bubble. They smoke; they drink; they cuss when telling really tall tales, because they seem to understand what the other corner doesn’t; namely, that they will never measure up — so why try? That’s what grace is all about to them. Besides, when was the last time you met someone who was saved because of a Bible-thumper? Or greater still, when was the last time you met one that didn’t have more the disposition of a devil than a real human being?

Two extremes. I know. These two extremes forming my observations are the cause of this whiplash. And I identify with neither group.

I went to a bar for the first time in my life tonight. Ha! That is humorous really. How old am I anyway? (28.) Well, it was in 5-points and as charming as I would suppose a bar could be… but still, just a bar.

I am like a social virgin waiting to be sacrificed to so many worldly gods; that is how I felt — a fish out of water, as I fumbled through the process of paying a cover charge, showing ID, and ordering a Shirley Temple. (Cute, aren’t I?) Even the waitress noticed. She was so sweetly amused with my oddness that she refused to charge me for my drink. (Maybe she thought I was the designated driver…)

Yep. I was invited by the Anti-Bubble bubble.

And this one thing struck me as the rather miserable evening came to a close…

I didn’t mind the smoke, the girls smoking cloves at the table with me. I didn’t mind the drinks; had I not worked for a church at the time, I might have joined them, but my former pastor, James, has beaten a thing into my head about that over the years; I just couldn’t. And while there were things — behaviors, relationships — that yet disturbed me, I can’t change people. So, I took them in stride without surprise or caution.

But this one thing struck me with sadness long after the smoke had settled in some crevice of my head…

It wasn’t the self-justification and rationalization that was taking place, tightly woven throughout each conversation. It wasn’t the stark contrast of the behaviors I beheld when held next to the spiritual backgrounds and occupations held by these girls or even the strangely placed references to past missions trips while sitting in a bar. No, these things left no lasting impression. I entertained myself with people-watching: my table was no less fascinating than the rest of the room.

There is, however, this one thing I cannot erase, this one thing I felt to my core — this one thing that strangled me as the night closed. And that one thing was simply the mention of His name or, rather, how Jesus’ good name was trampled upon.

So easily discarded. So flippantly suggested. So casually stamped across their many excuses. It was as if His name landed in foreign territory as it crossed their professing lips. “Good Christian girls” and “but she loves Jesus” were the catchphrases that came to justify every sketchy ill already spoken at the table.

And it struck me. It seems that the Anti-Bubble bubble has forgotten the holiness of God.

“Be ye holy as I am holy.”

Do not revere the bubbles or even the Church — fine. But to slight God, to treat Him and His name so irreverently on account of these idols of thought? That, for me, is enough to cause me to tremble again in my own walk.

There is no other name. And there is no name so precious.

What both extremes, the corners and the bubbles, lack is the crux of the Gospel, the work of the Cross:

For the one that is the lack of the love of God, and, for the other, the understanding of what it means to be set apart by that love.

Without love, you have nothing.

Without being set apart by that love, you have no witness.

I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.

John 15:9

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