The sermon at church this morning was based upon a passage from the 6th chapter of Matthew which includes this verse:
David and I kept glancing at each other and nodding our heads as our pastor spoke about people being consumed with worry and fear. You see, this is something we have been talking about lately. Too many folks seemed to be overwhelmed with these emotions. They watch certain television news programs or listen to certain radio talk show hosts who do their best to stir up fear in their audience because, quite frankly, fear sells and it keeps people coming back. That’s not to say there aren’t worrisome events or situations in our lives or in the world but I honestly believe that much of what we are being sold here in America is out of proportion to reality. If you’re in Libya right now, you are allowed to be frightened. If you are in a nice Midwestern town, not so much.
I’m especially surprised by the number of people of faith who have been caught up in this whirlwind of chaos and conspiracy theories. They’ve allowed the rantings of people with an agenda to steal their peace, cause them to become suspicious and fearful, and in some cases even drive wedges between them and those who don’t buy into the same apocalyptic nonsense. If you believe what you say you do, shouldn’t your faith and trust in God/Yahweh/Allah provide you with at least some measure of assurance?
Don’t get me wrong; I know people go through very difficult trials and I’m not making light of the truly tragic events we all face at one time or another. No, I’m referring to people who are living the average American life but have become so consumed with fear and worry about some future event or situation that it alters the way they look at the world and those around them. Gold prices have soared as people literally buy into a fear of economic collapse. Fear and distrust of government or their fellow man even lead some to go so far as to build up personal weapon supplies far beyond what anyone might need for protection.
I may not go around quoting Bible verses or peppering my day-to-day speech with “God-speak” but my faith is real and personal and deep. I don’t feel the need to try to convince others that I am “godly”. Words mean nothing if not backed up with action. Neither do I feel compelled to compulsively develop means to protect my possessions or make plans for a zombie invasion. But I tell you truthfully, I possess the quiet assurance that my faith will hold me secure and I need not live in a perpetual state of fear. Sure, I have my moments. As an insomniac, I occasionally experience one of the those “middle of the night fear-fests”. (Why do things seem more worrisome at night?) However, in most cases “joy comes in the morning” and worries are set aside at daylight. I simply cannot justify ongoing fear and worry as a person of faith. Besides, there is just too much to be happy about.
Have you ever been around someone who is constantly talking about God, Jesus, their faith, the Bible, etc.? I mean, even when it has little to do with the conversation at hand, they find a way to interject something religious? I know I’m taking a risk by even bringing this up — there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding — but I’ve been thinking about this for some time now and after reading a friend’s blog post today, I felt inclined to go ahead and just share my thoughts.
There are some people, like my dear grandmother who passed away last fall, whose faith is larger than they are and it just seems natural to hear them speak of it as a matter of course. It doesn’t feel forced or as if there is an underlying motive but simply as expression of who they are. I’ve encountered a very small handful of people who fit this description.
On the other hand, there are many, many more who pepper their speech with frequent religious references which come across as either insincere (a few) or as if they are trying too hard (many). It feels as though they are trying to convince themselves and others of their religious greatness. I do try not to make that judgment but I’m human and fairly perceptive so I have to admit that I do sometimes wonder why these folks feel the need to do this. Do they have something to prove? Something to hide?
Several months ago I read the following quote by Donald Miller:
“I’ve also found that the more I trust in Christ’s redemption to be sufficient, the less overtly religious I am. And, quite honestly, the more suspect overtly religious people become to me. When I’m with somebody who talks zealously about faith, about Jesus, about the Bible, after a while, I find myself wondering whether or not their faith is strong at all.”
I found myself nodding in agreement and relieved to find that someone else, someone I respect, was articulating my feelings on the subject. I do know that personality plays a role. I’m an introvert and sometimes a bit shy. I’ve never been comfortable praying out loud, for instance. I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m a Christian but I’ve also never felt the need to blatantly advertise the fact, announcing it to anyone and everyone.
Take my blog, for instance. If you read for a length of time you will see casual references to my church and faith. I mention Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter as naturally as I write of the changing of the seasons each year. I’ve shared pictures of our church and a poem I wrote about it. I wrote about it when my grandmother died. My faith is an integral part of who I am and anyone who knows me, or reads my writings, will see that over time. And if they don’t? Well, I’m of the opinion that if my life doesn’t reflect my faith then announcing it on the sidebar of my blog, frequently quoting scripture, plastering Jesus bumper stickers on my car, etc. are meaningless acts.
I wrote the following in the current issue of my “Tea With Dee” newsletter. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from readers who agreed with what I said. Just now I was reading another blog and found that she was saying something similar. Her post was open and honest and the comments that follow are truly enlightening. I urge you to go read Suburban Turmoil (after you read my post, of course). And then let me know your thoughts.
My Say Over Earl Grey:
I’ve witnessed a disheartening amount of judgmental behavior recently and it saddens me. An especially egregious example is the Westboro Baptist *church* which has two scheduled protests in Oklahoma tomorrow. Most rational people agree that these hate-filled people are nuts so it’s pretty easy to write them off. But what about the more subtle examples we see all around us? The fact that it’s so often Christians who are doing this to each other makes it even worse. We claim to believe that we are unworthy of God’s grace but that it is given to us freely anyway. Why can’t we extend even a small amount of that grace toward one another?
My faith forms the very foundation of who I am and I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m a Christian. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to advertise my faith with bumper stickers or frequent references to God or the Bible in my everyday discussions. I suppose it’s in part due to the fact that I’ve been Christian my whole life and it’s as much a part of me as the color of my eyes. I don’t go around pointing out that my eyes are blue and I am not inclined to go out of my way to make certain everyone knows that I put my faith in God. If, after someone gets to know me, they can’t see God in my life then all the bumper stickers, cross jewelry, and Bible references in the world would be pointless. And yet, I know I’ve been judged as “less than devout” for these very things.
While I love classic church music and thoroughly enjoy being part of our church choir, I’m not all that fond of most contemporary Christian music so that’s not what my radio is tuned to. My political beliefs don’t line up neatly with those of the Religious Right (or any other political group…I’m rather eclectic). I happen to belong to a church which doesn’t believe that the moderate consumption of alcohol is a sin and I’ve really gotten a lot of grief over that. I’m not threatened by people who believe differently than I do but it seems that other Christians take it pretty personally when my beliefs don’t mirror their own. Why? Isn’t it rather arrogant to think we have all the answers and everyone else is wrong? And even if we are 100% certain we are right about something, are we likely to convince others of that if we act in a superior and judgmental way toward them?
The older I get, the more I realize how little I really know and the more I am willing to just live my own life as best I can (with God’s guidance) and let God sort out everyone else. I am trying to do my best to just love and accept people as they are rather than try to change them. I’d just like the same courtesy.