The Wind in Our Face
“God hath called you to Christ’s side,” wrote the saintly Rutherford, “and the wind is now in Christ’s face in this land; and seeing ye are with Him, ye cannot expect the leeside or the sunny side of the brae.”
With that beautiful feeling for words that characterized Samuel Rutherford’s most casual utterance he here crystallizes for us one of the great radical facts of the Christian life. The wind is in Christ’s face, and because we go with Him we too shall have the wind in our face. We should not expect less.
The yearning for the sunny side of the brae is natural enough, and for such sensitive creatures as we are it is, I suppose, quite excusable. No one enjoys walking into a cold wind. Yet the Church has had to march with the wind in her face through the long centuries.
In our eagerness to make converts I am afraid we have lately been guilty of using the technique of modern salesmanship, which is of course to present only the desirable qualities in a product and ignore the rest. We go to men and offer them a cozy home on the sunny side of the brae. If they will but accept Christ He will give them peace of mind, solve their problems, prosper their business, protect their families and keep them happy all day long. They believe us and come, and the first cold wind sends them shivering to some counselor to find out what has gone wrong; and that is the last we hear of many of them.
The teachings of Christ reveal Him to be a realist in the finest meaning of that word. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find anything visionary or overoptimistic. He told His hearers the whole truth and let them make up their minds. He might grieve over the retreating form of an inquirer who could not face up to the truth, but He never ran after him to try to win him with rosy promises. He would have men follow Him, knowing the cost, or He would let them go their ways.
All this is but to say that Christ is honest. We can trust Him. He knows that He will never be popular among the sons of Adam and He knows that His followers need not expect to be. The wind that blows in His face will be felt by all who travel with Him, and we are not intellectually honest when we try to hide that fact from them.
By offering our hearers a sweetness-and-light gospel and promising every taker a place on the sunny side of the brae, we not only cruelly deceive them, we guarantee also a high casualty rate among the converts won on such terms. On certain foreign fields the expression “rice Christians” has been coined to describe those who adopt Christianity for profit. The experienced missionary knows that the convert who must pay a heavy price for his faith in Christ is the one who will persevere to the end. He begins with the wind in his face, and should the storm grow in strength he will not turn back, for he has been conditioned to endure it.
By playing down the cost of discipleship we are producing rice Christians by the tens of thousands right here on the North American continent. Old-timers will remember the Florida land boom of some years ago when a few unscrupulous real estate brokers got rich by selling big chunks of alligator swamp to innocent Northerners at fancy prices. Right now there’s a boom in religious real estate on the sunny side of the brae. Thousands are investing and a few promoters are getting rich; but when the public finds out what it has bought, some of those same promoters are going out of business. And it can’t happen too soon.
What has Christ to offer to us that is sound, genuine and desirable? He offers forgiveness of sins, inward cleansing, peace with God, eternal life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, victory over temptation, resurrection from the dead, a glorified body, immortality and a dwelling place in the house of the Lord forever. These are a few benefits that come to us as a result of faith in Christ and total committal to Him. Add to these the expanding wonders and increasing glories that shall be ours through the long, long reaches of eternity, and we get an imperfect idea of what Paul called “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
To accept the call of Christ changes the returning sinner indeed, but it does not change the world. The wind still blows toward hell and the man who is walking in the opposite direction will have the wind in his face. And we had better take this into account when we ponder on spiritual things. If the unsearchable riches of Christ are not worth suffering for, then we should know it now and cease to play at religion.
When the rich young ruler learned the cost of discipleship he went away sorrowing. He could not give up the sunny side of the brae. But thanks be to God, there are some in every age who refuse to go back. The Acts of the Apostles is the story of men and women who turned their faces into the stiff wind of persecution and loss and followed the Lamb whithersoever He went. They knew that the world hated Christ without a cause and hated them for His sake; but for the glory that was set before them they continued steadfastly on the way.
Perhaps the whole thing can be reduced to a simple matter of faith or unbelief. Faith sees afar the triumph of Christ and is willing to endure any hardship to share in it. Unbelief is not sure of anything except that it hates the wind and loves the sunny side of the brae. Every man will have to decide for himself whether or not he can afford the terrible luxury of unbelief.