“…till Jesus Christ’s ghost has been laid.”
Shortly before I moved to Florida from Pennsylvania I worked with a personal trainer. One morning when I arrived for my thirty minutes of torture I found him disgruntled. Naturally I feared that this wouldn’t bode well for me. Summoning my best pastoral skills to restore some degree of calm before I went under the weights, I asked him what was bothering him. Apparently he heard our President of the United States say something along the lines of, “We are not a Christian nation anymore.” This simply did not sit well with him. I decided on a course of distraction – a fancy way of saying that I was trying to change the subject. I asked him, “Mike, where do you go to church?” His answer absolutely surprised me: “I don’t go to church.” Quickly I looked for a reason to turn around and go back to my car.
Amazingly people become angry at the suggestion that our nation may be slipping as a Christian nation. Why is this? Why would someone like my trainer care so much when he doesn’t even bother to attend church? A more important question is why do so many church members care when one sees so little transformation in their own lives? Transformation is the natural result of intentional, purposeful activity to grow in Christian maturity. It flows from such activities of regularly reading the Bible, a vibrant prayer life and a commitment to gathering regularly with a small group for support, encouragement and accountability in our walk with Christ. Friends, there is a difference between being a member of a church and being an authentic follower of Jesus Christ.
Actually, I am surprised that anyone would complain about this supposed remark from our President. I say supposed only because I didn’t hear it. The reason for my surprise is that I “checked-in” with a half dozen people later that week who are spiritual heroes to me – people who just simply radiate the love and joy of Christ. They are purposeful in growing daily in their faith and there is no mistaking it when you are near them. I asked them what they thought about this comment from our nation’s President. Every one one of them dismissed the remark; whether we are, as a nation, Christian or not is irrelevant. What matters is whether those who claim to be Christian are actually changing their lives to honor Christ.
Many years ago Samuel Butler wrote these words: “There will be no comfortable and safe development of our social arrangements – I mean to say that there will be no permission of suicide, nor cheap and easy divorce – till Jesus Christ’s ghost has been laid.” It seems to me that my friends are right. It is irrelevant what is said about the faith of our nation. What does matter is whether persons who claim to be Christian are placing to rest the ghost of Jesus Christ simply because they are too busy to be intentional about personal growth.