It's one of those blast furnace kind of days here today, 95 degrees with 95% humidity. To the amusement of little boys everywhere, the sun is so hot right now that ants burst into flame on the sidewalk without need for a magnifying glass. As I type, my son is sipping hot peppermint tea—of all things—somehow oblivious to the heat pump outside laboring to rid our house of thermal build-up. The dryer is working with the weather to scorch our clothes dry, and just to add insult to injury, I need to take a flamethrower to some weeds outside tonight.
Why not talk about hell, then?
The Christian blogosphere talks about hell far more than you'll hear from any pulpit. I've read just about every take on hell you can imagine in just the last few weeks. But every one of those theological treatises has ignored one kind of hell, the hell that most people experience: hell on earth.
It doesn't take much for us Christians to castigate anyone we deem to be unworthy sinners. You don't have to look very far to find such horrid heathens. The Christian blogosphere is brimming over with posts that name names and point fingers. The names of the enemies change, but the general collection of them remains the same. You're likely to find homosexuals, evolutionists, atheists, and the ACLU in that category. Karl Rove seems to occupy that spot for Sojourners types, while the hardcore conservatives still get mileage out of Bill Clinton. And then there's whatever preacher or teacher we love to hate. Benny Hinn, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, Ken Copeland—maybe even your own pastor will show up on that list, who knows. The important thing here is that hell needs to be invoked whenever we think about them.
More and more I believe that we truly want to see some people burn in hell. It used to be the Hitlers, Pol Pots, and Stalins of the world, but increasingly it's the people we disagree with—you know, The Enemies of Christ. And from the dialog I see occurring on an increasing number of Christian Web sites, I believe that there are a few too many Christians who would get no more glee than to have a front row seat in Abraham's bosom so they can stare out over the chasm that separates heaven from hell and lob a few jeers at the prisoners of hell. Because we all know that nothing hurts worse than to be in hell and have to suffer the receiving end of cat-calls from The People Who Got It Right.
But waiting for the eventual demise of the Enemies of Christ is not enough for some of the most vocal critics out there. They'd love nothing more than to see people in hell right now, here on earth. Such an idea almost warms the cockles of their hearts (that is if stone can have cockles.)
Now it would seem a hard thing to make hell on earth for people, but I now know how it comes about easily.
You see, most people on earth are already in hell because they have no prayer covering. Most of those destined for fire have never once had anyone pray for them. At no time has a Christian stood up in public or stolen away to his or her prayer closet to pray for these souls just waiting for damnation. Not once. More often than not there hasn't been a real Christian within ten feet of those Enemies at any time in all their years on earth. No one to pick them up when they fall. No one to hear their hurts. No one to take their confession. At least no one who we would consider Spirit-filled.
It is a far easier thing to call someone an Enemy of Christ than it is to pray for them. It takes no effort on our part to just keep doing what we already do when confronted with people with whom we disagree. How simple it is to label someone "godless" or "heretical" or "deceived" than it is to get down on our knees and say to God Our Father, "And so I once was. May your truth be made known to them through me, Lord Jesus, by any means possible."
Because you see, someone may have been praying for you long before you surrendered up your Enemy of Christ label and became a Child of God. Someone loved you and me enough to have labored in prayer over our souls for years and yet we can't spare those we consider Enemies of Christ one second of our day to cover them in prayer for what may be the first time in their lives. No, it's easier to blog about their sin, to throw up our hands in disgust, and to leap to our feet in protest than it is to fold those hands and bow those knees.
So this is what I ask of anyone who comes to Cerulean Sanctum. Before you blog about this Enemy of Christ or that heretic, spend one month in prayer for them. Pray every single day. Pray that God would put Spirit-filled Christians into their lives who will speak life and truth into them, sharing the Gospel not only in words but also deeds. If you are close enough to actually be that supportive person, then consider taking the job because obviously no one else has. If after the end of that month of prayer (and service) your righteous indignation still burns hot, then do as you are lead of the Spirit.
Some people are already in hell, folks. Not having a prayer covering is the very definition of being in hell on earth. Not having the fellowship of committed Christians willing to draw up alongside you and help you through your hell on earth only makes it worse. Perhaps we need to remember how fortunate we are to have had that covering and that presence of devout believers in our own lives. And perhaps we need to stand in the gap for all we perceive to be Enemies of Christ before we get online and bitch and moan about them.