I think that one of the easiest things to do for a Christian is to become private and insular in their faith. Backsliding would appear easy, but you have to deal with running into church people at the supermarket. But insular faith can give both the intensity of religious experience while the freedom to live as you’d like outside of the allotted times and places.
A legacy of the Enlightenment is the dichotomy between religious and secular. Parallel to this dichotomy is the private and public. A consequence of these dichotomies is that we can be both deeply religious and worldly at the same time.
But Jesus tells us that there is only room for one in our hearts.
It is mentally strenuous to consider in practice how Jesus wants me to let him explode into the society in which I live. Somehow, I lack the imagination that makes this sort of spiritual contemplation easy. But I realize that it is not always the case that I must figure things out before I do them. Part of living by the Spirit is walking into unknown territory. Sometimes it means learning as you go.
I hope that we have grown tired of private faith that has no effect on the world. I know a lot of people don’t like President Bush because they think he has turned America into a theocracy. And while I am not in sync with him on many things, I don’t know if I would be able to “shut off” my faith so that I could run the country “objectively.” I doubt even an atheist could do that. (I hope we realize by now that objectivity is a myth.) Fortunately, I will never become president. But as long as I am alive, I will be a member of society. And as long as I am a member of society, I will be an ambassador of the near and far kingdom of God.
There is a restlessness in me, the good sort. I want to follow Jesus into the interior of my heart, but also into the world. “For God so loved the world…”