We operate in a world that preaches tolerance, flexibility and understanding. Not bad ideals to practice, in most cases. I, however, have grown tired of being schooled on the “politically correct” response to every situation regardless of my own beliefs and emotions. I understand that not everyone embraces my upbringing, my history or my moral compass and I have no intention of forcing my views onto anyone. But, at what point do my actions stop being signs of flexible tolerance and become indications of an untrue and even counterfeit life? Is there a line where I am expected to stand up and voice my standards and beliefs even if those very beliefs offend the social norm of today?
I grew up in North Texas in what is often called Tornado Alley. Like many homes in that part of the world, we had a storm cellar in our back yard. It had been built by my grandparents, and the door was covered in sheet metal and made a wonder slide for play time. One day, I discovered that I could walk up the door if I rubbed gasoline (from the 5 gallon container for the lawn mower) on the bottoms of my rubber flip-flops. I thought it was really neat. That is until my mother discovered what we were doing. I was told it was dangerous to play with gasoline. I wasn’t sure I understood the danger, but I knew not to try it again. Fast forward 30 years, when I met a friend who had been playing with gasoline and had been badly burned as a result. Now, I understood the dangers of the highly combustible fuel as well as how fast fires can and will follow not only the liquid but the fumes. My mother was not flexible in allowing me to have fun and play. She knew I was playing with fire and did her best to protect me.
You may be thinking, “Of course she would stop you. So what?” This example is pretty cut and dried. The danger was obvious. The actions were expected. So I ask: How many times to we allow others (friends, children, family) to play with “fire” in their lives rather than offend/anger them? There are so very many moral chasms that we allow others to delve into without saying anything. After all, we live in a world where sex is casual, attaining personal desire is the #1 goal and faith is only discussed as the punchline of a joke. We speak of religion without conviction and yet bristle when called religious. Christianity has become a social tag and the Church a place to go on Sunday mornings IF I decide to get out of bed AND it will benefit me in some way.
My husband uses the term “American Christianity” to describe today’s social/religious Christian tag. American Christianity tends to focus on:
- The importance of the individual not the corporate vision or destiny of “the Church”.
- Individual prosperity instead of stewardship; using faith to attain stability and comfort versus encouraging taking risks to advance the Kingdom.
- Self-fulfillment and happiness rather than glorifying God and serving humanity.
- Promoting a consumerist mentality with regard to the home church and not the equipping for ministry; A culture of entertainment that replaces the pursuit of God.
- The church as a building instead of a body that exemplifies a lifestyle of worship, community and Christ following.
- Efficiency of worship but not the effectiveness.
While each individual believer is responsible for applying the Word of God to his/her own life, scripture was given to the Church. When you read the Old Testament, references are made about the Nation of Israel. In the New Testament, the community of faith (the Church) was the focus of scripture. As believers, we are to be a PART of the Body or The Church. We are not ‘stand-alone’ in our beliefs.
Only in the United States do we believe we are “owed” prosperity. Rather than being grateful for all that we have in our country, we pray for greater things: bigger houses, nicer cars, better paychecks. It would never occur to most American Christians to sacrifice in order to provide for the community around us. At most, we give a tithe and expect a big return as a result.
If I hear one more person say “I deserve to be happy”, I will scream! No one ‘deserves’ to be happy. Did you read that correctly? NO ONE DESERVES TO BE HAPPY. An individual can CHOOSE to be happy in any situation. When MY happiness becomes my prime focus, I cannot focus on God. And just to close any gap that may exist: God will NEVER use sin to bring you happiness. An adulterous affair may add a level of excitement and fun to your life, but is it worth the sacrifice of your reputation and trustworthiness?
I struggle with entertainment value attached to our American church services. I struggle as a worship leader and as a participant. I know the danger of getting caught up in “performing” on any given Sunday. The need to be part of the worship with the body fades if I’m not on stage. The accolades from others become my “worship” and I no longer look for ways to grow in my own spiritual life.
I believe we need to attract people to our church services. But, more important, I believe we need to be examples of a lifestyle of Christ following. When we show that worship is more than filling space in a church building once a week, we influence the community is a greater way. We make effective our worship and our lifestyle. People are attracted to the genuine. Worship as entertainment will lose its appeal if there is no depth to it. That’s why we are seeing an upswing in small group/family life worship. My pastor has said “The Row doesn’t know what you need, but the Circle does.” The Row represents where you sit in a church service. The people on either side of you have no idea what’s really going on with you. The Circle, however, represents the family life group. That’s the small group that hears you share on a weekly basis. That may not be efficient, but it’s definitely effective in growing your spiritual side.
I want to be flexible with people. I want to be that person that loves regardless and sometimes in spite of the situation. I need to be a part of weekly worship and daily growth in order to be my best self. I cannot pretend to be something other than who I am. I will not be a counterfeit in this world that promotes individuality but demands conformity.
“Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.”
James 1:26-27 MSG