So I guess, based on some of my past conversations with Facebookies, you could call me a professional provocateur. I have a tendency to poke the proverbial bear, and to be honest I enjoy doing so. My theory is that we only increase our understanding through challenges to our beliefs, whatever they may be. I love when people ask respectful and honest questions about my opinions and beliefs because it allows for a thoughtful and honest response. I will admit that I struggle with handling when someone poses a thought either with the intent of insulting, or out of willful ignorance. In both of those cases though I am called to respond with love and patience, but I sadly have not mastered this skill. I’m still a work in progress.
Anywho, here’s my thought for today, which will likely upset some. I am a Christian. But I’m not a Christian by the contemporary perception of the word. What I mean by this is that I do not dress up on Sunday. In fact, I do not act or dress differently on Sunday than I do on Friday night. My vocabulary does not change, and my habits do not change. I wear no masks and there are no facades here. My wife and I regularly have discussions about our differences and how we complement each other nicely. One of these differences is that I wear my heart on my sleeve with minimal or no filtering. Sometimes this is a blessing and sometimes its a curse. More often than not it’s this lack of filter that leads to said discussions (hence, the cursed part). But I digress. It’s this lack of filtering though that I think has allowed me to embrace the idea of carrying my faith with me everywhere I go. It’s sad to me what the world thinks being a Christian means and who God is, not because of their perception but because of how that perception was born. If Christians acted like we are supposed to then I wonder how different the world would look. That last thought applies to me just as much as any one else.
Am I hypocritical? Yep. Do I sometimes lie? I sure do. Do I sometimes turn a blind eye to someone in need? Sadly, yes. Are all of those wrong? You bet. Here’s what I know though: My job as a Christian is to show God to the world through my actions. I have been going to Church since I was a wee one, and my pew sitting skills are epic. I don’t think any one’s life will ever be changed by them though (Unless I ever find myself in a situation where someone’s life depends on my ability to sit in a chair for an extended period of time). Nobody cares or judges my ability to sit in a chair. Nobody cares about yours either.
All 7 billion people on this planet judge people based on their words and actions though. Since Christians claim to be on a golden pedestal of forgiveness and love, there is no group that this is more true for. Christians are judged for everything, and I’m guilty of it as well. If I get cut off by someone on the notorious Don Holt Bridge and I see a Jesus fish on their car I think “you should know better”.
We live in a critically connected time of Facebook, Instagram, and sharing your most mundane details with the entire world. Frankly, I don’t care that you grew cabbage on your make believe farm, but you’re gonna share it with me anyway. With all of this over-sharing and judging, it is vitally important that I (as a Christian) speak and act in a manner that accurately (as best I know how)reflects the God that I claim is real. The advent of social media is all the more reason to live my faith like I mean it. I say and do a lot of things to a lot of people, any of which has the potential to impact their lives in an eternal way. That’s not to say that my words or actions carry with them an immense power, just that words and actions in general have a certain innate ability to influence the receiver’s perception of the world (and the God who made it).
So what does this all mean for my personal revelations? I’m glad you asked. Here’s what it means: I go to Church every Sunday because it’s good for me. In fact, there have been studies which show the very real and tangible benefits of belonging to a corporate body pursuing the same ideals (I mean Church). I go to Church for me though. I don’t go to Church for others. I go to Church to learn how to be an extension of God’s love on earth and how to apply his principles to my relationships. What I do on Sunday from 10am-11:30am is for me. What I do Sunday from 11:30am – next Sunday at 10am is for others.
To back this whole thought up let’s take a look at what a dude named James wrote. The second chapter of James is a good one. I hadn’t really paid much attention to it but perused through it today. The entire book is believed to have been written by James (hence why we call the book “James”) and directed to newly converted Jewish-Christians. At the time it was written, these Christians had been persecuted and scattered around the whole area. They had been chased, had their houses burned, stoned to death, arrested, and jailed. They were on the run and had every reason to turn against society. Instead of encouraging insurrection though, James offers a warning, in no uncertain terms, against prejudiced actions and beliefs, withholding mercy from those who need it, and what he calls “dead faith”. In verse 14 he continues with:
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
Not that the above needs much interpretation but as I previously said, I’ve got a lot of thoughts. So here’s a few fundamental truths of my faith that I need to constantly be reminded of:
- God did not go through all this work so that I can sit comfortably once a week in an air conditioned building singing songs about how he went through all this work so that I can sit comfortably once a week in an air conditioned building singing songs about Him. There must be more to it or this whole thing is just a big ponzi scheme.
- It’s a rarity that people will find God through faith alone. In fact, that’s why Jesus established the Church. God calls me to live my faith like I mean it.
So how do I actually do this? Another great question. Here’s a few ideas to get started:
- Get involved with foster care in your area. It doesn’t matter where you live, foster care services is a very real need right next door to you. If you don’t feel called or prepared to welcome kids into your home, consider providing support services to those who do or to DSS workers.
- Purchase a bag full of weather appropriate clothing, supplies, and food. Place that bag in your trunk so you are prepared to help a homeless man/woman when you see one.
- Provide support to pregnancy centers. It’s one thing to call yourself pro-life but another entirely to fight for it.
- Vote. We live in a very tumultuous time. I won’t go into detail here but there are several political candidates who quite clearly do not reflect the commonly held beliefs of Christianity. Beliefs such as providing for widows and orphans, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and protecting the sanctity of ALL life.
- Be a mentor. If you don’t know any one who needs a mentor then reach out to a mentor program like Big Brother/Big Sister of America, or in the Charleston area one called e3 (sponsored by Seacoast Church).
- Lastly, ask God to open your eyes to the needs around you. If we slow down enough to ask for it, he’ll deliver on it.
So to sum up this entire rant, I don’t want my faith to be neatly contained in a book. I want it to spill out into the lives of those around me. I want it to have an eternal impact on those who may not otherwise have the opportunity. I want people to know my faith not by how many songs I sing on Sunday but by what I do with it everyday.
I want to live it like I mean it.