Friday, November 28, 2008

Theoretical Faith

Today I talked to a man who does work in oil fields in Nigeria. He goes for months at a time, comes home for a month or two, then goes again. He's not a Christian. We got to talking about how I wanted to do mission work (possibly in Africa), and he pointed out something very interesting.

He said in Nigeria there are churches everywhere, almost like here. Every store and place he went into had Jesus' name up and everybody was constantly praising Jesus. But, he said, they treat people like garbage. They're always looking how to take advantage of someone. They commonly leave dead people on the side of the road, can be very violent, and treat women horribly. He told me how strange it was that they praised Jesus so much but lived so terribly. I only had one thought...

America is not much different.

We have churches all over the place. A large majority of America claims to believe in Christ in one way or another. Yet, walking through a supermarket or turning on the television you couldn't guess it.

It's so easy to have a theoretical faith, isn't it? It's so easy to sing songs to Jesus on Sunday, hold our hands up high, put money in the plate, have Bibles highlighted up the whole way through. But when things get tough or we're by ourselves, we really end up doing whatever we want to do, don't we?

It seems like many Church leaders just want to get people in the doors of their buildings. We're doing that well enough, I'd say. We need less churchgoers and more Christ-followers. The trouble in Africa, and everywhere else, is not just getting people to believe in Jesus. What does believing in Jesus mean if it doesn't change who I am? If Heaven is real, why can't I live like it now?

This got me immediately thinking, "I wonder if people have had the same thoughts about me?" If he's so passionate about Jesus, why doesn't he act more like Him? I'm sure people have had thoughts like that about me, and it saddens me. I don't just want to talk about Jesus, I want to actually be like Him.

I want to defend those who can't defend themselves, especially when it's inconvenient to do so. I want to have the same integrity of doing what's right regardless of who I'm around. I want to treat people better... like they matter, no matter who they are.

I'm praying that the Gospel will shape who we are, not just what we believe.

I'm curious what you guys think. What does having a more practical faith look like to you? How can we be more like the Jesus we sing about?


Terry said...

Your friend's observation about Christianity in Nigeria was very thought-provoking. I read it after hearing about the Wal-Mart employee in New York who was killed by a mob of shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving. I thought about how similar our cultures are. Then, I thought about how task-driven I can be so often. I need to be more people-driven if I want to be more like Jesus. Great post!

alisha dawn said...

It's true. We have Heaven ahead of us! Why don't we live like it more often?
I'm sure people have thought I should act more like Christ than I do. That saddens me to think I could be driving people away instead of driving them closer to the God of our universe!
I want to be more like Jesus too!
Thanks for reminding me like you do so often.

Paul said...

To quote Eugene Peterson's "Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places" pg. 66-67

"As I worked my way into adulthood, I was reading my Bible with more diligence, paying attention to how this gospel of Jesus got lived, not just talked about, not just given witness to, not just studied and memorized. I gradually realized that ordinary time is not what biblical people endure or put up with or hurry through as we wait around for the end time and its rocket launch into eternity. It is a gift through which we participate in the present and daily work of God. I finally got it, end time influences present, ordinary time, not by diminishing or denigrating it but by changing it, filling it with purpose and significance. The end time is not a future we wait for but the gift of the fullness of time that we receive in adoration and obedience as it flows into the present."

David said...

Once again, very well done, brother. This is one of the best blogs on the internet. Your thoughts are always encouraging and expressed in a humble as well as a loving way. If you have the desire to do so i really think you have a future as a writer.

As for the question i think a big part of it is balance. We've seen examples of individuals who were exclusively both aspects.

What i mean is there are people who are nothing but knowledge. Book worms. Brainiacs. They can quote verse after verse, they know the Hebrew and Greek flawlessly...they have it all in the head but hardly anything in the heart. You hardly ever find them out there in the world where the greatest sermons are taught - in action, in love and in deed.

We absolutely need the knowledge of Christ and the Word. Yet at the same time we need so much more than that. We need to put those things into action!

There are also many people today who see those people who are nothing but knowledge and who jump to the polar opposite extreme - nothing but heart with a disregard for knowledge.

We absolutely need the heart aspect - to love people as Christ does and to live as much as possible as He did. Yet again at the same time, we need the knowledge to go with that.

So i think a big part of it is knowledge coupled with JOY, with LOVE, and with living out what we read in the Word.

Of course we are absolutely humans and we'll continue to struggle combining those (i know i do) but the more we remain in the Word and as long as we keep serving Christ, it will come about if we are really doing so!

Thanks again for these excellent thoughts brother.

Anonymous said...

Great post Josh. So what keeps this from happening? What keeps me from being changed? What keeps me from really WANTING to be changed - no, i mean really changed?

Joshua Tucker said...

Terry - I can definitely relate. I tend to be focused on tasks more than people, but Jesus wasn't like that. He had a task to do, but always let Himself be interrupted by people who needed Him. Thanks for the comment.

Alisha - Thanks for helping me be more about others than myself.

Paul - Thanks for the quote. I think Heaven starts now. Eternal life is a quality of life with God now that overflows into eternity.

David - Thanks again for putting so much thought into your comment. I've actually started writing a book, but who knows where it will go. Thanks for the encouragement, brother. I agree with your thoughts - balance is hard to come by, yet Jesus did it masterfully. I've noticed a trend today that makes friendship evangelism the only way to go. But sometimes it's so much about the friendship that it never gets to evangelism. Real love always tells the truth at the expense of the relationship. My knowledge of that needs to help me live it out lovingly in my interactions with people. Thanks for your heart.

missioncambodia - I'm guessing this is Dennis. Well I think there's lots of things that prevent it. The two I always think of are distractions and propaganda. Sometimes I'm so distracted with life that I just don't think about Jesus and all that. Media and lots of other things tug me their way. The other is propaganda, the attractive lies that Satan throws my way. I buy into those sometimes and they lead me down many roads. Thanks for the thoughtful questions, and I'm really proud to know you guys.

Pamela said...

All I can say is amen!
I want to be more like Jesus, and I want to see people in me!

David said...

Great post... having been in a number of counties as a missionary, here is my take on it.

Church folks are sick (they need a doctor according to Jesus)-- especially in the beginning. The process of sanctification, being broken, activity waiting on God, and confessing our sins one to another-- those things make us well.

Sometimes, instead of getting well, we get religious to cover up the sickness. Our culture (as in the time of Paul in Corinth, Ephesis, Galatia etc.) creeps in- or floods in. Most cultures tolerate at least, and in many cases, legalize sin. It is tough to live a holy life with the kind of influence day-in-and-day-out.

There is no magic formula for getting it right... just a passion for Him, prayer, reading the Word, grace, mercy and more of Him. It's about a relationship, not a book.