Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Crutch of Religion, and What We Really Want

Anyone landing on this blog can surmise that I’m a Christian. Well, I hope they can. I don't try to hide it. But if you’re not of that persuasion, truth is, my faith is no more real than yours. Even if religion is not for you, we are no different. I believe in something. You believe in something. God. Prophets. Positivity. Energy. Nature. Money. Power. Politics. Science. Culture. Entertainment. Relationships. Self. My faith drives me, moves me onward. It sustains me. So does yours.

I’ve embraced something worth living for, worth dying for. And maybe you've made the same commitment. Maybe not. When it all proves too much of a task, you might want to let it go. At times, I feel the same tug. We really aren’t any different. We’re human beings foundering in chaos, clinging to something we hope will save us, or else, denying we need saving. Either way, you and I are the same.

The Christian holds to the promise of eternal life through the forgiveness of sins and the grace offered by the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Muslim accepts one God, creator and sustainer, and wholly surrenders to God’s will. The Jew believes in the one true God of the Universe, giver of the law. Other world religions build their faith on the natural inclination of mankind to offer worship, to find purpose. Even the non-believer desires something that lasts, views life with longing eyes, seeks the meaning of it all, even if it ends in discovering there is no meaning at all.

So, my faith isn't any different than your faith, or lack thereof. We all search for  something. In my case, I took up Christianity and stuck with it. It’s a faith group, a belief system. One anybody can join. Just find yourself a good church and plug in. But if you prefer, find a good mosque, or synagogue. Or get yourself a little Buddha statue. Or something. Or worship the moon. Or join in a social movement and see if that does it for you. Plenty of those to choose from right now.



Sarcasm? Little bit. I don't mean to poke fun at religion. Here’s the thing: Clutching the crutch of religion, in the end, makes little difference. It might offer peace of mind, a better life. And moral boundaries are good for the individual and for society. But any belief system can get you there. As it is, my ideas of good and bad and right and wrong might pit against yours at start a disagreement. Or a war. It’s been known to happen.

However, while my religiosity is no better or worse than yours, the One who called me to faith is different. The power of the gospel saves a soul from hell, redeems a generation, rescues a planet, and provides a way for all people everywhere to realize true freedom, to live unburdened in the presence of their Creator. No cost. No sacrifice. The cost has been paid, the sacrifice made. The calling? I’m no different than you, except that I answered when He called me. Think He isn’t calling you?  If you’re reading this, maybe He is.

What we all want, whether we admit it or not, is love. We want to feel it and express it. But it’s always an unfulfilled dream away. It doesn’t live up to our expectations. It’s fleeting. It does not satisfy.

Only one love doesn’t disappoint, no matter who you are. Regardless of your religion, your dislike of religion, the object of your affection, or the surety of your well managed plans, this is it. As the saying goes, we’re all in this together. And this is all that matters:

 

 In this way the love of God was revealed to us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

 I John 4: 9,10

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 3:16,17


Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Moment in History for the Church

Everybody has their idea about what it means to live the new normal. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for most of us to adapt to a new way of getting through the day. For most Christians, the compulsory changes to our society have become more urgent than our traditional customs. In a way, that’s okay. Potentially causing harm to our neighbors certainly wouldn’t promote the cause of Christ. And so, we wear our masks and keep our distance. No harm, and it might save a life.

While our world has been at war with a virus, other battles have flared. Social tension and racial division demand a reaction from Christ’s followers. But have we allowed these challenges to sweep us into the world’s frenzied response? Or are we stayed on the gospel, remembering our calling? 

Perhaps within the church, the old normal wasn’t what it should have been. We’ve been caught up in the concerns of this world for a long time. Maybe our new normal should be to avoid the political rant and point to the coming King. To rest from the fear and proclaim the victory. To resist the fantastical schemes and rely on the truth of the scriptures. So many reports are clouded with misinformation and cloaked by trepidation. It’s too much to process and if allowed, it will consume our thoughts and impede our mission.

While we’re social distancing, we need to remind ourselves and others of the spiritual distance. The truth is, we remain far from God without the freeing power of the gospel. While we’re fixated on washing our hands, we must remember to wash our hearts with God’s Word, with prayer, and with a right mindset.

We consider those trips to the store essential, and delight in the treat of eating at a restaurant. But church? For a great many of our brothers and sisters, online church has become the new normal. It’s safe and acceptable, but this new habit of some might mean a rare return to the gathering of saints in the house of prayer.        

Right now, distance churching is necessary for a lot of people. Of course, we can’t judge. It’s a personal decision made under unprecedented circumstances. But if we’re able to join others in worship, perhaps we should, even if we have to wear a mask, sit six feet apart, and greet each other with a wave instead of a handshake. While the fearful people of our communities are counting positive test results, we can
let them know by filling our church parking lots that we are still counting our blessings. We can assure them the church isn’t closed, that they’re welcome to join our modified assemblage.

Our gathering together offers a witness of peace and stability. But what about the rest of the week? The reset of the world, if that’s what this is, might mean a reset for the church. For whatever time is left for us here in the place, we must remain, or perhaps we must become, a highly devoted church. To that end, it might be better to resist the fight that is not ours, to avoid making an enemy out of a neighbor, a friend, or a fellow believer. And it might be prudent to curb the endless flow of information that may or may not be true. It’s all so distracting.

Of course, we have to know what’s going on. Some awful things are happening, and we should do what we can to protect those around us from sickness and to calm the unrest in our towns and neighborhoods. As believers, we need to hold each other up as we face mounting adversity. No denying it, evil has us surrounded. While we don’t have to accept it as normal, we do have to endure it, at least, for a while. Good thing we’re not in this alone. God is for us, not against us. The enemy is Satan and he’s destined for defeat. As believers, we must stand together. If possible, in person. If not, then in our hearts and in our prayers. We can’t allow this pivotal moment in history to tear us apart.