Oh the things that have been swirling in my head in the past few weeks. Sometimes it just helps to "put them down on paper," so to speak, in order to make some sense of them.
So, this one is more for me...if you're interested, feel free to read...but I just need to clear a bit of head room (that made me think of Max Headroom for those of us in our 30's...you'll know what I mean) to make space for some new and exciting thoughts.
A bit of a spiritual journey...
Earlier this week I emailed an old high school friend with a very quick, bullet-point synopsis of my life since HS graduation...one of the things I included was a relatively recent church change and the radical re-formation of my faith that I have undergone in the last few years. I've been a Christian since I was six, and have been blessed to never have strayed from the faith--not that I haven't questioned nearly everything about it at some point--but I've always sensed God's presence in my life and have had a deep knowledge that He loved me and that I was loved by Him. It's something that really can't be explained in words. (even though I just tried! ha)
So, I've been through many phases of my Christian faith--the teenage radical bring-your-Bible-to-school and preach to people phase, the college sorting-out of exactly what I believe vs. what I've been told to believe phase, the judgmental everyone-is-sinning-and-I'm-not phase (which in and of itself is sin enough--yes I see that now), and now the a compassionate, holistic phase.
A horrible nutshell of my faith progression, as things like this are never really nutshellable, but whatever...gives you (if you're still reading) and me an idea of my journey.
My friend replied to my email (I paraphrase somewhat) "Glad to see you are experiencing a more laid back Christianity..." What an interesting perspective. Because I feel more alive to my faith now than ever before, but the way I want to act upon it and make it known are radically different.
More history (I know, soooo exciting!)...I was a member of the STATE board of the Teenage Republicans and a devout conservative in high school. My leanings will certainly always be in that direction, but I am more and more convinced that Christianity supercedes government. The ideals of my faith are so much BIGGER than government. My government is not a faith-based organization, and thus, I cannot reasonably expect it to "act" in Christian ways. I cannot expect "Christian" legislation or moral behavior from a system that does not ascribe to Christianity. Politicians are almost all swayed more by pols and voting blocks than their own personal sense of faith or morality. It's just the way the system is set up. So, while I believe in the preservation of "family values," I believe that it is MY responsibility to live those out. I should vote because it is my duty to learn about and support candidates who might reflect some of the things I stand for...but I will NEVER picket or lobby or beg some government official to legislate morality. Abortion is a travesty, and I am passionately pro-life...but I would be more effective counseling pregnant girls on their options than I would ever be throwing rocks at doctors or screaming at anyone.
(Ooooh, I'm starting to rant) Additionally, while I'm on the topic...Republicans and Democrats...who's to say which one is more "moral" or "Christian?" Some might say, "Well Republicans are pro-life and pro-family..." Well, we had a Republican President and a Republican-controlled Congress for several years...was there anything overturned???? And since when is the Democratic idea of feeding/clothing poor people and improving education LESS Christian than preventing abortion? Jesus talked a lot about helping the poor. And finally, what about the CHURCH? If we did more feeding and clothing and less lobbying, picketing, and hating...wouldn't we impact the world more? Governments rise and fall, but an act done in the name and compassion of Jesus will stand.
Next...I was for years involved in a situation that focused almost entirely on sin--not sinning, who was sinning, what should happen to people who were sinning, and the choir members who could see everyone telling us all who was sitting out there and sinning...SIN SIN SIN. Certainly it is something that should be dealt with in the life of every Believer/Christian. But to continually focus on it is completely unhealthy...and if you already tend toward the idealistic and/or judgmental (as I do--see! confession)...you can get caught in a spiral of being everyone else's sin watch-dog. And since when did the Bible ever say that we are to convict people about their sins? That is the job of God (the Holy Spirit specifically). And when did the Bible ever say that we are to condemn people for their sins? That is Satan's forte. Our job is to help other Christians in their walk, by lovingly addressing and bringing their sin to them after much prayer...and then restore them to the faith. But our job with non-believers is simply to LOVE them...wherever they are...and by whatever means they are there. Drug addicts, prostitutes, AIDS victims, homeless, wife-beaters, and the list goes on and on. When did the church quit loving people and start beating them up for doing what unbelievers do? The Bible clearly says "They will know we are Christians by our LOVE." Love was the sole identifying factor. It seems today that most people know we are Christians by the way we condemn everything that's not like us, or by our screaming/demanding, or by our holier-than-thou attitudes.
So, more than ever, I am not laid back about my faith...but instead of looking to Republicans, Democrats, or everyone else to get up and do something...I am praying about and doing the things that Jesus commanded. The New Testament church was involved in community and fellowship with other believers, loving their extended community through service with no strings attached, breaking bread with one another (yes!), worship, and prayer. People who seem the most lost or the most unlike me can provide huge opportunities for love.
And randomly, I will add...I was very challenged last week to think about our planet. Our Pastor delivered one of the most beautiful sermons I've ever heard on the way that God created the earth and how He intended it to run. Most startling in the list was that God gave the earth to man to "serve and protect" it. He created it, and gave it to US to protect it. So, more than anyone...Christians have a DUTY to step up and be the biggest tree-huggers out there. I'm not sure what all that will mean for me just yet...I recycle, I conserve energy...but I really want to discover what else I can do. I want to take my duty seriously. (Hmmm...most people associate environmentalists with Democrats, don't they? See how the lines begin blurring when you take a whole approach to faith????)
In closing (I know, it's been long...and if you're still with me...BRAVO!)...my faith is personal, but not private. I'm called to live it out with everyone around me in different ways, responding to each person I meet appropriately--rejoicing with those who rejoice, and mourning with those who mourn. Encouraging, feeding, clothing, protecting...I should worship with everything I do...reflecting the glory of God by maintaining His beautiful Creation--which is a reflection of His attention to detail and care for us. Mostly, I am being challenged to act upon my convictions. I still don't know how all of this will work itself out in "real life," but I know that I am less laid back than ever and more inclined to stretch myself to love, to accept, and to serve. That is what worshipping God with my life means. It means reflecting Him and giving Him glory every moment of every day.
Whew. My brain is tired. And a little emptier. But my soul is singing. Can you hear it?
for more on the sermon: "The Story of God: Being Human" (From 1/29/07) that inspired some of this... www.renovatuscommunity.com
ENTER, Then go to MEDIA and LISTEN
You can get a free podcast on itunes or listen to it in the archive (the podcast is up...the archive should have it in a few days). It's an hour long...our pastor is long-winded like I am!!! :) One of the best sermons I've ever heard...he even espoused the idea that we were born to live naked...but you'll have to listen to find out all about that. hee hee hee.