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FIRST-PERSON: Public enemy number one

MELISSA, Texas (BP)–Police departments regularly choose someone or something as “public enemy number one,” the singularly most dangerous person or activity in their jurisdictions. This individual or event causes the most problems and the most worry for law enforcement officials.

In 1933, the FBI listed John Dillinger as public enemy number one for his role in a string of murders and bank robberies. Recently, Internet provider AOL called unwanted e-mail messages, known as “spam,” as their public enemy number one.

To be successful, one must eliminate public enemy number one. To keep their citizens safe, police must catch this most dangerous criminal. To make a profit, corporations must overcome this most problematic hurdle. To win the championship, athletic teams must defeat their arch rival in the big game.

In the Christian church, we also have a public enemy number one. I would submit this enemy is not what you might think. You might argue that public enemy number one for the church is sin, the acts of disobedience and dishonesty and evil committed by people inside and outside the congregation. Or, someone else might nominate atheism as public enemy number one, a refusal to even believe in the presence of God.

I would argue, however, that public enemy number one for the church of Jesus Christ is complacency. Complacency is simply the heinous sin of not caring. It is not anger or hatred toward the faith, it is not a mean spirit or a refusal to love, but instead is the lack of passion that so often characterizes church members.

In Scripture, Jesus speaks strongly against complacency. In Revelation 3, Jesus spoke His rebuke against the church in Laodicea. The Apostle John quotes Jesus when he writes, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” In other words, what we call complacent is what Jesus called lukewarm. Complacency equals that bland middle ground between hot and cold, a water temperature that does not refresh the one who is thirsty and does not heal the one who is sick.

If Jesus hates lukewarmness so much, as believers we must prioritize its avoidance. Serving Christ requires one to serve the wishes of Christ, including His wish that we demonstrate a passionate commitment to follow Him faithfully. Faithful followers of Christ are characterized by many qualities, including love, joy and forgiveness, but most notably a passion that places loving Jesus ahead of loving the world.

As the Christian church, we need believers who are willing to commit and stay committed. In our world, we have too many followers of Christ who are willing to be faithful for a short time, but then move on to other priorities. Some Christians are like the dieter who works so hard to lose 10 pounds, then decides that is enough and gives up short of their goal. Instead of sticking with our commitment and going all the way, too many of us stop following Christ when the pressures mount or other opportunities are presented.

In much the same way, public enemy number one for our marriages is complacency. As God needs us to stay faithful and committed to the faith when times are tough, our spouses need us to refuse to quit, to keep caring even when difficulties and disagreements arise.

Are you committed today? Or, are you complacent today? These are two similar looking words with devastatingly different consequences. Let’s all commit today to fighting public enemy number one, the dangerous temptation known as complacency. Ask God to light your spiritual fire as you seek to honor Him.
Trey Graham, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Melissa, Texas, is a speaker, columnist, author of “Lessons for the Journey” (America House, 2001), and director of Faith Walk Ministries (www.faithwalkministries.com).

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  • Trey Graham