In my last blog, Do You Believe?, I wrote about the faith I once nearly lost, then regained and now trying to boldly live. I really don’t struggle with believing in Jesus, believing that he is the way, truth, and life (cf. John 14:6). I’m not trying to come across as boasting but I have sat across the table with people of other religious beliefs (e.g, Muslims, Hindus) as well as people entrenched in agnosticism and religious pluralism and still I believe in Jesus.
But I do struggle with believing. It’s just a different sort of struggle.
When I became a believer and committed my life to following Jesus, I took that seriously. I understood that I would never be a perfect Christian and I’m not excusing sin but I can live knowing that I am still a sinner. I can live with that because as I walk in the light of Christ, I trust that the blood of Christ is cleansing me from my sin (cf. 1 John 1:7). I also trust that by the power of Holy Spirit, God is transforming me and making me more and more like Christ.
But my struggle is following the way of Christ when it would be easier to go back to the way things were.
Here is what I mean. I was born in the south and transplanted to the mid-west, from Arkansas to Indiana. Most of my life I have lived in what many refer to as the heart of America….or as my dad would affectionately say, “God’s country” And to be quite honest, it’s not a bad place to live.
But there’s a part of that culture I was raised in… Well, it’s the religious aspect of “God, Country, and Family” that’s all wrapped up into one religious package and has “Christianity” stamped on it. You can be at the 4-h Fair on Saturday singing God Bless America, celebrating the might-is-right power of the nation as America heralds another war conquest and then on the next day, Sunday, you can go to church and sing “In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever.” And You and I can do that and never consider the contradiction between Saturday and Sunday.
Following Jesus messed my life up…in a good way!
And there it is. The more I read scripture, try to follow of Jesus, the more my life keeps getting messed up. Messed up in a good way though. I don’t see where Jesus or his earliest followers, the church, were concerned with all things patriotic, engaging in violence, smitten with national politics and political parties, desiring to attain wealth and prosperity, eager to sing their version of God Bless Rome and cast a scornful eye on anyone who doesn’t sing along with them, etc… In fact, quite the opposite, the church was concerned with loving God by loving their neighbors, even their enemies rather than doing them harm. They refused to patronize Caesar and the Roman Empire but instead practiced charity to one another and towards the poor with whatever they had, and they boldly proclaimed Jesus crucified as the only hope of salvation.
I don’t need every Christian to agree with me on every issue or how we should act in every conundrum we face as Christians these days. But what really frustrates me is when I try to help others see the way of life Jesus and his followers live — as opposed to the way of “God, Country, and Family” life that gets Christianity stamped on it — and other Christians would rather appeal to people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln to justify whatever it is that needs approval. Protestant Christians have historically championed the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (that scripture alone is our authority on matters of faith) but I am beginning to wonder if what we mean is “Sola Scriptura except when Sola Scriptura won’t work. Others times I hear Christians appealing to common sense and reason rather than trying to think through the lens of God’s wisdom which is Christ crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25) — a wisdom that makes the conventional wisdom and reasoning of this world foolish.
That’s my struggle. That is where I struggle with believing in Jesus and living as his follower. Sometimes I wish I could just go back to not knowing what I now believe is true. Sometimes I would just like to toss in the towel for a little while. But I don’t and I won’t! Because in the words of another disciple who suffered with way more struggles than I…
“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” – The Apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 1:12