There are short-cuts to peace, and there is real inside-out transformation. Most people in positions of authority will settle for the short-cuts. God doesn’t.
This past week we have seen some shocking scenes in the UK. Wanton violence, looting, muggings, rioting. It all began with a police shooting incident, but most of those involved seem to be simply using the excuse to be wild and anarchic. Two teenage girls were interviewed on the radio, drunk at 09:30 in the morning. They blamed the government (although they weren’t clear who is currently in power), they declared their freedom to do what they want, they demonstrated that there really isn’t an organized rebellion taking place, just sin manifesting freely. Naturally the government and police want to do whatever they can to restore peace for all. But this is not the same as inner transformation.
Sadly too, many parents seem to pursue the short-cut rather than shaping character from the inside out too. Where once parents would at least maintain moral standards, now the preferred short-cut in too many cases is apparently a laissez-faire attitude. So we have non-rioters on the radio blaming the parents of those rioting. I know as a parent that it is always easier to do nothing than to do something, and it is easier to achieve conformity to standards than it is to affect the hearts of my children. As a parent I long for inner transformation of my children, but there is always a temptation to settle for less.
The same is true in church world. While most pastoral leaders would pay lip service to their desire for the inner transformation of those in their care, too many settle for mere conformity to moral standards. If everyone in the church will act like Christians, then things seem peaceful. It is no accident that many onlookers perceive Christianity to be a moral code rather than a vibrant relationship with the living God. It is relatively easy to achieve peace through moral pressure on a congregation, but God’s goal is that hearts be pastored and changed.
While it is easy to look and point the finger at others, I think we need to ask God where we stand? How am I doing as a parent, or as a leader, or whatever? Am I settling for moral conformity, or am I seeking to shepherd the hearts of those in my care? And how am I doing? Am I settling for decent behaviour, as if that is the measure of healthy Christianity? Of course there should be a growth in sanctification in our lives, but let’s not settle for that as the barometer of health. Since God’s goal is inner transformation, it is fair to expect more than external behaviours to be the mark of our Christian experience. How am I responding to God’s efforts to shepherd my heart? One thing we can be sure of . . . unlike governments, some parents and some church leaders, God will not settle for mere good behaviour in our lives, He loves us too much to aim so low.