Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"If we could only see us now..."

Sorry that this is so long. Hopefully it makes sense to someone other than myself, haha.

The other night I decided to text several friends that I’d lost touch with, just letting them know that I was thinking about them and that I was thankful for their influence on my life. It was awesome because most of them sent back some really cool responses and it was good to hear from them. I even got to talking to my friend Christina who I hadn’t really talked to since leaving West Virginia about 6 months ago. We started off talking about what we were each up to, she told me her plans for school in the fall etc. and I told her about work and about some stuff I was trying to get going. We eventually got on the subject of Ohio Valley University, the school that we both attended in Parkersburg, which led to some good conversation about church and the nature of God. These are the kinds of discussions that I love. I really enjoy hearing opinions from other people on these subjects and just taking in that person’s relationship with God and how they feel about the state of things now.

Christina and I come from very different backgrounds when it comes to church and faith and those kinds of things, which is really cool as far as I’m concerned. I was raised in the Church of Christ, a super conservative church that doesn’t (usually) have instrumental music or clapping/dancing/raising of hands and when you’re saved it doesn’t really come with a prayer, only baptism. Christina attends a church on the other end of the spectrum. Spiritual gifts, dancing and guitars are all things that are in attendance during their Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday services (which I have no problem with personally). We both talked about how OVU, and the Church of Christ (OVU is a Church of Christ school) mentalities seem to be somewhat of a breeding ground for the people who are so quick to say that this or that person is going to Hell for this or that because the Bible doesn’t instruct to do it. This has always perplexed me, and it’s not just an OVU thing, not just a Church of Christ thing, it’s across the board. Everyone thinks that they're right in what they're doing, or else they wouldn't be doing it, for the most part at least.

I see different churches and the way they do things and my best guess is that all we can do is study the Word and model our life on that while we find a place to worship that is preferable to the other places available to us. Is this wrong though? How can we be sure? I’ve adapted these questions to the concept of being born again that comes with being saved. Sure this is about being made clean and free of sin, but couldn’t it also be about us having to start a new life mentally too? I’ve learned to love the phrase “new Christian” in this light as well. None of us, as humans, grow at the same rate. We all experience physical changes at different ages and we mature at different times as well. I think this applies to our spiritual lives just as much as it does to our physical bodies. In my opinion, I can’t see how anyone can really expect for another person to be on the same page as them when it comes to something as personal as faith. We all have different ways of learning and understanding as well as different influences outside of ourselves that will mold us into who we are, as a human or a Christian. With that in mind, how can we say that this or that person is really wrong with their faith, or that they are remaining stagnant because they’re not going outside of their comfort zones? Aren’t we all just in our comfort zones? No matter where you worship, you must at least feel comfortable there, you must feel like you belong or that you gain something from the other members that you come in contact with.

Growing up in the church that I did was a good experience for me as I had several youth ministers in my life that were a little “out there” as some would say, but as far as I could tell all that meant was that they were actually striving to follow the Gospel of Christ rather than the cultural norm of the congregation that they were employed by. I really value this because it brought me to a place (along with a class I took instructed by the wonderful Dr. Earl Lavender while at Lipscomb and some youth ministry classes taught by a man named Jeff Fincher) where I was able to adapt what I had learned and what I continue to learn to my personal life while being respectful of other’s opinions while learning from them as well. To me this was such a blessing as I’ve met people of differing faiths over the years and been able to have such good conversations about what they believed while doing my best to answer questions that they may have about my faith. This upbringing also gave me experience with those who were super conservative and damming of most that was outside of the 4 walls of whatever square brick building they determined actually had God’s presence in it. Ugh. Please. This leads really makes me wonder though. I don’t get how this or that person can point fingers (myself included, I’m doing it right now) at others and be dumbfounded about why they think or act the way they do. I don’t get how we’re supposed to find common ground so to speak. Sure, I’m ok with people having different ideas or opinions, but I still judge people for what they say/do/believe, and it’s not justified by me not doing it audibly. I still think oh wow, this person tries to sound so intelligent by regurgitating whatever they remember from their philosophy classes and yet they don’t really have any idea about what they’re truly attempting to say. I wonder if that’s all we can do though. We obviously can’t be like Christ. We should certainly try, but we can never be as loving or compassionate or understanding as He is. We just can’t do that, which brings up the question what can we actually do? I love the quote from Ghandi that tells us that we should “be the change we wish to see in the world” but I wonder how we can be that change without venturing into situations that will leave us pointing fingers or boasting that we’re right while saying that everybody else just hasn’t figured it out yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning my faith here, I’m just questioning how to go about living it out. It’s tough to want to show the love of God to people while having this judgmental voice inside my head telling me why other people are wrong.

Sorry if this seemed scatterbrained/ unorganized...that’s how my brain works I guess, haha, I basically wrote this and didn't really look back over it, also I've never really been a writer. I would really love any thoughts that you have on this subject and I look forward to reading them.


Anonymous said...

Hey Dude,

This is really good stuff, and i have a lot of similar feelings. The first thing that came to mind was 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 - you should look that up, cause i'm too lazy to type (or copy and paste it)

Sorry i cut out on you when we were talking about the mics - i just wasnt feelin the love.


Anonymous said...

first of all, i think it's awesome of you to pose questions like this. even if you don't get any concrete "answers" you definitely spark thought in those who may attempt to "answer" or comment on the subject. i have always found this very subject very difficult. there have been times in my life that i have felt very close to God and those are the times I struggle with questions like these. on the other hand, there have been times (currently) that I have felt very distant and far removed from the relationship that I have with Christ. Its in these "away" times that I really don't ponder these difficult questions. Its comforting i think to know that the fact that you are searching for answers on some of these issues means that you are searching for more closeness with God. It can get really overwhelming to attempt to find reason in a relationship with a God that is so big (for a lack of better words) that we can hardly wrap our minds around him, and his nature, and his love. I have always found that it is much easier for me to focus my attention on the most simple of things and make that the bigger picture while searching for insight on the deeper. For example, I believe the most important thing we can do is love others. All others. whether we know how to relate to them or not. whether we know how to deal with our "judgmental" thoughts on their belief's or not. And i think that's something you do well. I think you are very good at loving others and it shows. I think thats most important. I think that sometimes the most profound answers come from looking at the most simplified ideas. Just Love. don't stop searching for insight on the deeper questions, but at the end of the day, Just Love. If we all decided to love on others despite our differences, then we have found our common ground. Thats the message I want to give. that's the way I want to show the world that Christ lives in me. btw, I LOVE YOU:)

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts. I've often wondered the same things and it's hard to grasp onto those thoughts at times. First thing that needs to be said is that I'm a firm believer in absolute truths. Some things are absolutely right, while others are wrong. That's just how it is... but when it comes to the "grey areas," as we like to call them, things get way more complicated. I think you're right on when you said that we need to study the Word and model ourselves after all that is says in there. But the key word in that sentence is STUDY. Loads of people just read the Bible and take it at face value and don't truly study what it was saying, to who it was written, and the context it was written in. That can change somethings quite a bit. Along with the Word as our guides, we should also be turning to the Holy Spirit as I guide as well. Jesus said that it was better for him to leave us so he could send the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us. This also poses another problem though, doesn't it. We all seem to have different ideas about who and what the Holy Spirit is and it's all kinda relevant in a way. Someone says, "Well, I feel like the Holy Spirit told me it was okay." While the other says, "The Holy Spirit is leading me to believe it's wrong." Which is truth then? Then the Lord reminds me that I'm not here to judge others at all... all I am to do is constantly be examining my own heart and motives. Lord knows that there's enough junk in there that can take up my lifetime to clean out. It's all about growing in the Lord and in our personal relationship with him, then he reveals more and more truth to us. If we bump across someone who has different opinions than we do, hear them out, examine their words, look at their fruit to see if their trustworthy (and I know that's kinda hard to do, but the Bible says that we will be known by our fruit), and then research what the Bible says and what we feel the Lord is telling us. It's not easy; it's not always clear and clean cut, but the Lord never fails and when we truly rely and trust him he doesn't steer us wrong.

Brad said...

I've really enjoyed reading these so far. Jon, that verse was very fitting/ awesome and I'm glad you shared it with me.
It's always slightly scary to put super personal thoughts out there for others to read, but I'm glad that I did and that I'm blessed with friends that can give some insight.