Friday, February 19, 2010

For Shame

You know that disconcerting feeling you get in your stomach when you realize you've ended up some place that you didn't really want to be? Perhaps you've become someone you don't want to be? You've done something you desperately want to forget about?

Yep, that's shame.

There are lots of aspects of aspects to shame. Not all shame is accompanied by guilt. Not all shame is bad. If you are acting in ignorance it is possible to blunder about and warrant shame. If you consciously engage in activities that go against your belief system, you can certainly warrant shame and accumulate guilt.

Lately, I've had the blessing of some quiet time to reflect on a few facets of my life. With fresh eyes I've been able to realize how inappropriately I've behaved. My actions weren't lining up with my acknowledged belief system. Knowing this consciously now, leads me to that feeling like I need to vomit. I've felt shame. With that realization I've had to ask myself: What next? Where do I go from here?.

Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
-- 1 Corinthians 15:34

When you look for answers, you find them. Get your mind right, leave that place where you aren't who you want to be? Step away from the path that leads you away from your salvation. Like a surgeon, cut away the dead flesh in your life that you can save the rest. Come to your right mind!!!

The last part is the real kicker. If you're struggling with that decision, remember that even people who don't know God can do the right thing. If the unbeliever can walk right with their fellow man, how much easier should it be for a God-follower? Which tells me this shame is well-placed and appropriate.

But because I am a Believer, I don't need to wallow in my shame. I don't need to be dragged down with guilt. I just need to "sin no more". Which is way harder than it sounds.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Things Unseen

I was talking with someone I consider a friend. He happens to hold himself as an atheist.

In light of my white-knuckled grip on faith as the foundation of my world life view, it may seem strange that we are able to have intelligent discourse, let alone be friends. In reality, it works well because we follow one simple implicit guideline. I ignore his hypocrisies and he ignores mine. A discipleship group it ain't, but we go way back.

A recent conversation however put quite a strain when we left our comfort zone of theology and ventured into the realm of human nature. Specifically, faith as a part of our world view.

During the conversation he referenced a quote by Christopher Hitchens, a well known atheist. His point was that "faith is the surrender of the mind". I looked up and included the full quote:
"Faith is the surrender of the mind. It's the surrender of reason. It's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals.  It's our need to believe and to surrender our skepticism and our reason. Our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something: that is the sinister thing to me.  Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated."
-- Christopher Hitchens (from a television interview by Penn & Tell)

This is pure quackery. Faith as a part an integral part of any healthy relationship development. The roads to schizophrenia, psychopathy, and many other attention and compulsion disorders have roots in an inability to incorporate faith appropriately. Healthy child development, including virtually all socialization skills, are deeply rooted in the ability to exercise and base our behaviors on faith.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
-- Hebrews 11: 1

Of course, I do like his use of the sweeping generalization. In this case, his obvious yearning desire to believe in the absence of God has allowed him to reach such a ridiculous, anti-social, untenable, and ultimately hilarious extreme.

Yes, my friend adjusted his statement. He's still an atheist, but grudgingly admits there are potential benefits as well potential negatives to a life lived by faith. Proving once again, that he is not a complete idiot.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

You Have To Work At It

How do you live your faith when you are in the workplace? What about every other community or situation when you aren't at church?

I know this isn't the popular question. For me, it's probably one of the most incriminating areas of my faith that can be examined. After all, I've studied religion and I do profess my faith clearly when those infrequent opportunities arise where I feel I can express my beliefs without pressuring others or crossing lines of courtesy. But am I shirking my duty?

The clear call would be to proclaim your faith at all times. But sometimes to show love you have to listen instead of talking. Sometimes you need to simply show mercy, or humility, or compassion. How do you balance the need to be in the world, with my mission to not be OF the world? This from the guy who routinely separates his world life view into black and white/wrong and right.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.
-- 2 Timothy 4:5
Intellectually, I understand the idea that you have to speak the gospel and carry out His will. Even to your hurt. I'm willing to sacrifice (or so I say from the comparative comfort in which I live). But when the rubber meets the road, am I passing up opportunities to shine His light merely because I don't want to rock the boat? Am I hiding behind courtesy and conformity when I should be striding boldly in service?

Perhaps I need to change my prayer a little. It's not so much that I need to stand up when called. Maybe I need to look around a little more and stick my neck out a little more often. I need to be more willing to face an uncomfortable silence, a confrontation of emotion, the judgment by the unbelieving. They will not all be called. Not all who are called will care to listen to me.

I don't just want my light to shine in the dark. It extra specially NEEDS to shine in the dark.