By: Billy Schmuck, Resonate Pullman
The law of inertia tells us that a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion with the same speed and direction, unless acted upon by an external force.
This is not an uncommon way to explain the path of one’s life. We’ve all probably heard some variant of this with respect to changing the course of a ship at sea. In fact, Resonate Church’s vision is centered on the point that changing the destination of a ship in port is far easier than one underway (and it is easier to meet ships in port than the open sea). What else is a college campus than a port where people are preparing for their life’s journey while in search of a worthy destination? Older adults are ships underway, some of them with considerable mass and/or velocity. A family is a veritable fleet complicated by its own internal dynamics. Harder to change course, but certainly not impossible. The inertia/ship-at-sea example is, in part, a worthwhile analogy for life’s trajectory.
I say in part because the inertia analogy tends to stay too terrestrial, leading to deception in addition to perception challenges. On Earth frictions slow us, storms drive us off course, the ground can shake beneath our feet, and we are ever- fighting that acceleration holding us to the dirt called gravity. Everyone wants to rise above it all. People spend their entire lives trying to rise to the point where not even the air can slow them down. Some even manage it temporarily; slowly like a weather balloon reaching the edge of space, or in a great sudden burst of energy like a rocket peaking and then falling back to the ground. That’s the nature of the Earth. It makes an attractive field pulling us back down to where all of those other forces can influence us again. Inertia going up simply isn’t enough to keep us in space – we always fall again.
Getting to space is absurdly easy compared to staying there. To stay there, you have to spend a godly amount of energy not just going up, but going away; away at a very fast pace. That is orbit. To be traveling so fast that earthly attraction can’t get you back down. You don’t have to spend any energy to stay in orbit - you’re falling toward the earth, but going fast enough to keep missing it. In our analogy this could be mistaken as a mature Christian. We see videos of astronauts floating around on the space station and we incorrectly marvel at how little gravity influences them. However; the truth is that the pull of Earth’s gravity at the space station is almost as great as it is on the surface. Moving so fast toward God, inertia keeps such a Christian safe, but they are only going in circles and constantly falling toward the planet – never able to leave the earthly anchors keeping them parked in its influence. This is a great deception that it is easy to fall for when we see a Christian moving so fast toward God and seemingly above the cares of the world. It is a point on the journey, but it is not the pinnacle.
If one can recall basic orbital mechanics (and it’s probably only space jocks and people who play Kerbal Space Program who do) the way to get further from Earth is to accelerate. So, if you want someone to get further from the pull of earthly attractions, help that person accelerate toward God. It’s that simple. It’s that hard.
The good news, the Gospel giving us salvation, can be that Godly massive boost to reach orbit. What then? So many are intoxicated by the weightlessness of being freed from one’s sins and brought above the cares of the world that one thinks that it is finished. Our mutual joys in freedom and imputed righteousness are rightly overwhelming and we form communities of others like us and worship God for such amazing lovingkindness. But people in such a beginning state will continue there forever without an outside force acting on them. It is only through additional acceleration toward God that we draw away from the earthly things which still have a grasp almost as strong as ever.
If we look to Hebrews, we see that one needs to eat meat and not milk. By the grace of God we can help one another, and to do so we might look to scripture for one’s role models. If you see a Paul, be Barnabas (encourage). If you see a Timothy, be Paul (teach). If you see a John-Mark, be Peter (reconcile). Whoever you see, be Jesus. Don’t mistake that high orbiting Christian for one who has arrived. Through your actions and words draw them faster and faster toward God. That is when the pull of the world really falls away. Then, when we’ve left the pull of Earth, accelerating into the great unknown by our attraction to God, the things we find hard naturally come about. Here are some examples of what a life in the orbit of Christ looks like:
The cost of community is nothing because such cares have already been left behind. Every thing and every moment is God’s and he has given it back to steward as part of an inheritance in His kingdom. Yet it is not one’s inheritance alone, but part of an inheritance shared by all of His sons and daughters. Each of us holds something of His in stewardship, held in common, for God’s kingdom. They are His time, His money, His burdens of the heart, and His spiritual gifts and callings.
2. Spiritual Authority
Temptations that bring down worldly leaders also fail to be an issue for someone in such pursuit of God. That person has already learned to submit to the highest spiritual authority and learned what a worthy thing it is to be drawn toward such a role. This person has already asked the question of whether God was calling him or her into full time professional service. He or she has a sufficient gift of discernment to be able to recognize who God is working through and already understands that he or she is submitting to God’s authority as they submit to that elder. You will not just find submission, but support. Of course, such a person would also submit to God’s authority if called into Nathan’s role (the prophet who called King David to account for his sins of murder and adultery).
Answers come easily to questions regarding missional theology and influencing culture through redemptive participation. Both flow directly from when our hearts begin to mirror Christ’s; when the selfish new happiness of salvation is intruded upon by the dawning realization regarding the fate of our friends, our neighbors, crowded stadiums, standstill freeways, and unreached peoples. Not just the fate their souls rest on our interaction, but the glory of God – because His glory has the chance to be reflected for all of eternity by their presence in His kingdom. That is the weight we bear, His glory entrusted to us.
Such comprehension is more than sufficient to alter the inertia of entire families. When one who understands this becomes a parent, how could one then try and “shelter” the most profound of disciples entrusted to oneself? How could we dare to merely wish a Christian life of bare salvation for our very flesh and blood rather than the abundant life promised by Christ? That is a salvation based on the foundation of Christ, but with nothing of worth built upon it rather than the riches described in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. No, our children must first learn to weep for their lost friends. We must shepherd our children, not shelter them.
So how do we minister to Christians who got it, but don’t really get it? Continue to win them with the good news: preach the Gospel. But do not be deceived by the inertia they have toward God and fail to recognize the orbit they may be stuck in. So win them also with an accelerating love for God. Win them by creating a thirst for an ever increasing attraction to Jesus. Win them by giving them a taste and then an appetite for the meat of sound doctrine. Like a great light resonates between two mirrors, one perfect and the other imperfect, creating a powerful laser: teach their hearts to mirror His and all of the rest will naturally follow. Win them with His love.