It's almost a Christmas ritual. All over the country, a bizarre reconfiguration of humanity brings together for a day those who do not share a faith but share a bloodline, a hometown, and the oldest memories a human being can access. And you give the gospel another shot, and the same cousin as last year tells you again that he's "this close" to becoming a Christian but can't bring himself to step over the threshold. He's just not absolutely sure, you know.
Making a career of "seeking." Long before the Hippies did it, procrastinators of the 18th century had it down to an art form and an institution. The art form: Hang around with church folks rather than barmaids, read the Bible rather than pornography, and by the laws of probability (and the Holy Spirit), I wouldn't be surprised if you became a Christian somewhere down the line-say around your 60th year, on average. The institution: Let's invent a "half-way covenant" to take care of the stickling question of the status of the children of "seekers."
Jonathan Edwards wasn't buying it. Let me make something clear for you, he railed against the New England brethren: You're not seekers; you're rebels! And in short work, three categories of men collapsed into two: believers and unbelievers.
Across the Big Pond, the Scottish Communion season had ingeniously (or accidentally) arrived at the same insight. The Lord's Supper was served once a year, in tandem with the agricultural rhythms, and from Thursday to Sunday, awkward, well-scrubbed farmers in their finest threads poured into the local church for good, pointed, no-nonsense preaching: "If you're not ready to take Communion, you're not ready to die."
Talk like this has a way of forcing the issue. No luxury here of dilly-dallying till a deathbed conversion. There is something very concrete about a Communion call: You either take it or you don't. You are either standing with Christ or against Him.
As it happens, this writer became a Christian through a similarly rude appeal. After a two-year presumption of gathering evidence to bring before the wretched bar of my reason, some guy named John said to me, "Y'know, there comes a point where you just have to choose." I went home, and having no more intellectual certitude than I had the day or month before, got on my knees and prayed the prayer.
2 Corinthians 3 is counterintuitive, reverses the natural order of things (which is why the Bible is so radical, so revolutionary, so hated): Do you want to understand, to see, to have assurance? Then step into the circle of faith, both feet, and erase the perimeter after you-and you will find understanding. "But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil (of a dull mind) is taken away."
"I believed and then I understood," rather than "I understood and then I believed."
Are you looking for an Archimedean point to stand on, from which to judge God neutrally before deciding, cousin? No such place in the universe. Do you fancy yourself a tragic hero in your lifelong, melancholy seeking after God? Romans 1 sees you as "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness."
There is a legitimate seeking, which you can do once you've crossed over to the other side. A seeking as for silver and hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:4), but a seeking on His terms, in belief.
And there is one true Seeker, who came on Christmas day to seek and save the lost, who scours the earth even now for the missing coin, the wayward sheep, and whose invitation still stands: "Come and taste, and see that the Lord is good."
But this testimony is the confession of a fellow dilly-dallier. Let us repent together of rebellion falsely called philosophy. Let us join the throng of those who, having bent the knee, have found Him to be true. And then, as a family, let us enjoy for the first time this Christmas season today, while it is still today.