Over the last several years of my life (thankfully not quite as frequently as of late) I have experienced tension headaches. In keeping with the definition, they are typically caused by tightness in my neck or upper back, which is also typically a result of strain of some sort. They can get really bad. If I let one get too out of hand, it can put me out. I can wind up in the darkness, curled up in a fetal position. Most of the time Excedrin Migraine, hot compresses, and/or massage can knock it out. I've had one actual migraine in my life, and so I know that my tension headache is no match. That said, a little tension can go a long way to wreaking havoc in life. But a little tension might not always be a bad thing.
There is a great tension in the life of the 21st Century American Christian. A tension that, as much as we'd prefer it, I don't believe is supposed to be resolved or released. As a Christ-follower, I'm called to "seek and save the lost". I'm on a mission to reach out to those who don't yet know that Jesus Christ has come to bring them from "death to life". I'm sent out as a "sheep among wolves" to share the Good News of the Gospel; that Jesus has come to make all things new - including you. So far, pretty clear. No tension.
But then you realize that you're called to go into a war zone polluted with weapons of destruction that you yourself were rescued from and dragged out of. There are land mines throughout, wrecking peoples' lives as they recklessly wander through - some thinking that tiptoeing will make a difference. And [let me get this straight] I'm supposed to go back into the war zone that I was saved and pulled from? Well, sort of. The reality is, you might have been saved from it, but you were also saved for it. Can you feel the tension?
In John 17, as Jesus is praying to the Father for His disciples (and us), He first of all says, "...the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." As Christians, we are exiles here. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are not of the world. But then in the next breath, Jesus proclaims, "I am not asking that you take them out of the world... As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."
BORN into this world.
SAVED from this world.
SENT back into this world.
There's an unavoidable tension here. A tension that we would really love to resolve, but is not intended to be relieved. At least, not until Christ comes back.
So, for now, how do I navigate this tension?
I know in my life I have to keep a careful eye on what is winning over my affections and my heart. While I'm called to be an influence, I have to be very mindful of everything I'm allowing to influence me. As my heart longs for the people around me to know Christ, I can't begin to long for the things around me that I can allow to so easily take His place. This isn't a one time decision I make, either; it has to happen all over again each day. I have to decide who or what I'm seeking. I make the decision of who or what will influence me. As a Christian, I wake up every day to a brand new opportunity to determine whether or not to answer this beautifully messy calling on my life.
Jesus saved me from sin and slavery and emptiness and hopelessness.
Will I go back for the ones who haven't grabbed the rope yet?
Do I realize there are many who don't even know the rope is there?
Am I willing to live in the tension that I was saved from it and then sent back into it?
When we - you & me - followers of Jesus - choose to live our lives in this tension, the Church is present. Without this tension, what we call "church" is merely a collected group of people who claim to believe - even memorize - everything Jesus said, but refuse to actually follow through and obey any of it.
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21)
SEEK the One who SAVED you and SENT you.
Know that when the Spirit of God is ruling your heart, transforming your mind, and guiding your life, a little tension might not always be a bad thing.