Where Are The Sparks?

Where Are The Sparks?“In this [salvation from God] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” ~1 Peter 1:6-7

Suffering, while it may not be as much a part of the everyday fabric of our lives as it was when Peter was writing, should probably be more a part of our lives than it is. True, ours is an age of toleration and pluralism. These two characteristic virtues clearly retard a society’s inclination to persecute. Nor is our society as intense about its religious beliefs as other parts of the world, which inculcate both a quicker and more physical response to strange ideas and practices.

But even if we bracket out our Western civility, the contrast between the Christian community’s belief in the gospel as well as its commitment to holy living and our culture’s unbelief in the gospel and its permissiveness ought to generate more sparks than it does. I contend that one of the reasons there are so few sparks is because the fires of commitment and unswerving confession of the truth of the gospel are too frequently set on low flame, as if the church grows best if it only simmers rather than boils.

~Scott McKnight, 1996


  1. Caleb Courtney

    Hey Allan I really appreciate this thought. I took my youth group to an early Christian worship re-enactment before Thanksgiving. They talked about how the early Christians were persecuted. I tried to make applications to today and struggled.
    We live in a tolerant age and I believe that’s for good and bad. Kids can read their bibles at the lunch table without fear of being arrested. They might get made fun of but that would be about all the persecution they would face.
    Now I am not clamouring for a return of the lions, I have kids now, I have no dreams of martyrdom. But I want to be a burning hot Christian, but how. I have become comfortable in my lukewarmness.

    On a side note: have you seen the advent conspiracy video on youtube? Its a short video with some inspirational thoughts on how Christians can better celebrate Christmas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVqqj1v-ZBU
    Also on adventconspiracy.org

  2. Allan

    “Give more presence.” I love that. Thanks for the link. That is a powerful video.

    More from McKnight: “Our lack of suffering is, in part, due to a lack of nerve on the part of the church to challenge our contemporary world with the message of the cross and to live according to the teachings of Jesus with uncompromising rigor.”

  3. Rob's Dad

    Mr. McKnight may feel the need to add additional suffering to his life yet I’m ok without asking for more.

    Those sparks can cause more fires to start than were expected or can be controlled – book burnings didn’t just occur in Germany. What about segregation and discrimination and oppression done with Biblical justification?

    Wanting the fire isn’t bad yet directing the fire needs to be considered. Perhaps we would do well to remember Dr. Oppenehimer’s comments as this fire is stoked.

  4. Caleb Courtney

    I think that might be missing the point Dad. Although the caution is warranted. I don’t particularly want to face lions or tigers anytime soon. However, I don’t believe the spark McKnight talks about is banning/burning books, discrimination, or refusing to be tolerant.

    A spark might be when Jennie and I told our youth group kids this week that we were shuting off the cable staring in January. We were tired of the TV monopolizing our time and polluting our minds. Jaws dropped. It was like I had ripped off a string of four letter words via Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

    Now I don’t think shutting off the cable is truly a spark, but maybe a faint flicker of us telling the world that we no longer align ourselves with its values, but Christ’s. Maybe it will spark (sorry couldn’t resist) a change in thinking in the youth group about how society impacts them through television.

  5. Rob's Dad

    I truly enjoy your posts. I tried to check Mr. McKnight’s other comments to see if he was going for sparks or tossing more incendiary devices like Messers Falwell, Dobson, Robertson et al yet I wasn’t able to find anything either way.

    Bill Clinton was President when this quote was made so I’m not sure what else may have been at play with him. Perhaps it was solely intended to spark us. Perhaps my response is based on the shrill tones from those who live further on the right.

  6. Allan

    The McKnight comments I’ve used today come from his commentary on 1 Peter in the NIV Application Series. His comments and his context are not in any way politically motivated, at least not in the manner we typically frame politics in a left/right, Democrat/Republican, Blue/Red way. He’s talking about living a holy life that clashes with an unholy culture. Like Jesus. His caution, his question, is that if there’s no clash, maybe we’re not living the way Christ-followers are called to live.

  7. Caleb Courtney

    I always appreciate your words. The fires created by Dobson, (who used to just put out phenomenal family material) Falwell, and others I have no interest in starting. I think they do more to draw people away from Christ sometimes. Driving through Colorado Springs Thanksgiving weekend I saw “Focus on your own d#@* family”

    I hope my last comment didn’t come off as rude or arrogant. I don’t want to be that typical know it all youth minister type 😉

  8. Jesse

    Let the sparks fly! There should be a raging fire emanating from the Lord’s church! The Word uses words/descriptions like wicked, lazy, near-sighted, blind, and forgetful of our salvation for those who are stagnant, satisfied, and otherwise NOT growing in Him, in the Spirit.

    God gags on the luke-warm and vomits them out, and summarily calls such wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked for acquiring wealth and suppressing our need for Him. Could Laodicea be the church in America?

    And these descriptions don’t even begin to address our pursuit of “sin”. Simply getting comfortable in this world incurs and deserves God’s judgment and wrath. This should scare every Christian that shies away from our God given mission of continually and unabashedly promoting Jesus. JESUS! God has and continues to teach me to fear complacency, for it is as much a sin as any other. A crafty tool of satan’s indeed.

    As evangelicals bemoan an American culture slipping further and further away from Godliness, there should be an inherent and growing conflict (sparks?) with a saved people that are growing more and more Christ-like. Christ set people off…should we expect to do any less?

    Caleb…your discontinuing cable is a HUGE spark. No small act, especially in the role of Youth Minister. I’ve cut out “R” ratings, and a fair number of “PG-13″s for the same reason. Conflict indeed with the world, and extremely unfortunately…often conflict within the church.

    How the Spirit must grieve.

  9. Jesse

    And yet, we must reach out and love the lost OUT OF this world by presenting Jesus and the life he’s called us to. We spend too much time condemning the world, while even Jesus came NOT to condemn the world but save it. Who are WE to condemn the world? Following HIS example, we should forego the fires of condemnation, and instead stoke the fire of God’s love, reaching out to one individual at a time. Forget “the world”. Rather, remember the poor lost soul standing before me today.

    God’s condemnation comes for lack of faith in Jesus (John 3:18), BEFORE WE EVEN THINK about “sinning”. We condemn the world and its sin, all the while neglecting Jesus, who is in fact THE very line in the sand that separates the saved from the lost.

    Who in the church is without sin, and able to cast stones at the world? Certainly not I. Yet Jesus is our redemption and salvation, praise God!

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