[Editor’s Note: In today’s blog, David Bryant confronts a curious paradox: why so many in American churches flee from intimacy with their Lord and Savior. Could the busyness of your Christian walk (all the activities, events, even Bible studies) be providing you with an excuse for avoiding increased intimacy with the Lord of heaven and earth you claim to serve? Join David as he offers a compelling perspective.]
At January’s 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Bishop Vincent Matthews, leader of a predominantly African-American denomination, told tens of thousands standing before him: “There are a lot of Christophobic people in this nation. Christophobic people who fight against the Gospel.”
After hearing that word, “Christophobic,” I consulted my dictionary where I found “Phobia: A persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.”
I wondered: Might there be a measure of “Christophobia” not only in our nation but also inside our churches?
What came to my mind next was the research conducted by one of America’s largest evangelical, Bible-teaching congregations. To their dismay they learned that 80% of their 20,000 members regarded intimacy with Christ as their greatest fear in the Christian life!
Afraid of intimacy with Christ! We could call that “Christophobia.”
Unfortunately, in my years of travel into many streams of the Church I have found far too many of God’s people struggling with a “persistent, irrational fear” of God’s Son that “leads to a compelling desire to avoid” getting too deeply involved with him.
Are you wrestling in any way with Christophobia? How consistently and intimately engaged are you with the King of Glory as the King of Glory? Are you holding back and avoiding going deeper with him?
How about the company of Christians where you worship every Sunday?
Maybe we need to explore this phenomenon a little more closely.
Utopia Instead of Phobia
The reason this issue is so important is because Paul characterizes a healthy, vibrant church (or individual Christian) as one that is lovingly, boldly, unconditionally, unhesitatingly absorbed with Jesus and going further with him as a way of life. It’s portrayed like this in Ephesians 4:
. . . in the unity of the common faith and common knowledge of the Son of God, we arrive at real maturity—that measure of development which is meant by the “fullness of Christ” . . . we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ, the head. For it is from the head that the whole body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love (PHILLIPS).
What Paul writes about in this passage is what I call “Christ-Utopia.” These verses describe what it looks like when Jesus has full sway in and among his people. This everyday “utopia” was defined by one early church father like this:
When we’re living in Jesus, all the way to heaven is heaven!
That’s the kind of utopia promised to every believer and every Body of Christ.
Thus, a choice is set before Christians and congregations alike: “Christophobia” or “Christ-Utopia”?
In other words, either we find ways to avoid or we neglect getting more intimate with Christ (because we know so little of his greatness and glory that we are not enticed to draw near to him), or we choose the utopia that can be ours right now as we:
. . . have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3, NIV).
What I call a Christ-Utopia isn’t some distant dream. It is already at hand, waiting for us to experience it. It is found in the person of Christ himself, inhabiting his people:
. . . the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come (Colossians 1, PHILLIPS).
Christ within us assures us of Heaven’s full provision, whatever our situation or condition. Whatever more we might seek from the Father is already within reach through the Son who reigns among us. Always in the midst of his people, he offers resurrection victory to supply the needs of his people and fulfill the mission of his people. Utopia now.
Jesus never comes among our churches casually. He comes upon us to revive us, to empower us, and to redeploy us in his kingdom purposes. Utopia now.
Make note of this as well:
The Savior who operates among us today by his Spirit is the same Cosmic Ruler who currently is flooding the universe with his glory (Ephesians 4), while simultaneously filling his Church with his supremacy (Ephesians 1).
Furthermore, the foretold unending revelation of his majestic splendor, which one day we will witness at the grand climax of history, is being previewed here and now among God’s people in all kinds of preliminary expressions. Utopia now.
To say it another way: We may not yet experience the quantity of the Consummation, but today he unleashes within us the quality of it. That’s why, for example, we say that having already cleansed us from the guilt of sin, Jesus now works among us to deliver us, day by day, from the power of sin (1 John 2) until the hour he comes back to forever eliminate the presence of sin (1 John 3).
Not only is Christ-Utopia our destiny but also a significant foretaste of it awaits this generation. This will become the clearest indication that a Christ Awakening movement is unfolding in our churches—the revival for which multitudes are praying at this very hour.
Christophobic No More
Sadly, many in our nation, including in our churches, remain Christophobic. However, there are also pockets of believers starting to wake up to Christ for all he is—refusing to hold back from him anymore, but rather determined to go after a greater intimacy with him. With renewed passion they are eagerly heeding the call of Scripture:
Pursue the things over which Christ presides . . .
Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ . . .
Your old life is dead.
Your new life, which is your real life . . . is with Christ in God.
He is your life.
(Colossians 3, The Message)
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read book at www.ChristIsAllBook.com.