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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Leap of Faith”
As this episode so keenly illustrates, everyone, whether Christian or not, needs to be vigilant for who we put our trust and faith in. This is certainly true of “snake oil” salesmen like the ones in this episode, but can naturally apply to anything, whether they be professionals, politicians, or, perhaps most keenly, religions and churches. We must constantly be mindful of people who seek to manipulate, deceive, or push personal agendas or private interests and are using the mask of professionalism or religious authority, even divine authority, to hide their true interests.
This, unfortunately, leads to one of the biggest criticisms atheists and agnostics make of Christianity as well as religions in general. What makes you say that your religion is any better than all the other religions there are?
And, equally unfortunately, the biggest disappointment I personally find in Christianity is how this is answered. One of the greatest faults I find in many Christians is they assume because they have the faith to accept the Bible as the Word of God and Jesus Christ as Lord that, somehow, everyone else in the world has automatically done the same. That leads to situations like this…
“The Bible is the Word of God and says Christianity is the one true religion.” “Well, ‘Fishism’ says the Book of Trout[obviously I’m making this up for the example] is the word of the one true god.” “Yes, but they’re lying, because ours was written by God’s divine inspiration.” “Well, Fishism says you are lying and that their book was written by a god’s divine inspiration.” “But you can trust us, because our book tells you that it is divinely inspired.” “Their book also says that it is divinely inspired.” “Ok, it’s useless to talk to you, because obviously you are clutching to your sin because your mind isn’t automatically realizing that when God says something it’s true and everything else contrary to it is a liar.”
Things like that kind of make me want to pull my hair.
I know we are called to preach that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, but just saying that alone isn’t terribly effective unless your audience doesn’t do any critical thinking or was lucky enough to hear that from you first. Every other religion out there either says the same thing or says they are the one true way too. So what sets Christianity apart? What makes our way truer than anything else? How do we show the world that we are the one true faith and that what we’re preaching is real? Is it realistic to simply say: “Well, if they’re destined for salvation, they’ll believe us…and if they embrace evil they won’t”?
In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” To me, that’s always been the gold standard. If we really are Christians, if we really are the “light of the world”, then we should stand out and different from everyone else and as something good or “radiant”.
Unfortunately, at least to me, it seems like rather than be defined for what good they do for the world, religions, including Christianity, are simply defined by what they’re against. Some days I wonder what I do, or many other Christians around me, to help anyone other than telling them not to do things.
This really struck me recently in the wake of the Orlando tragedy. Right after it happened, there were various posts on Facebook showing support for the victims in the wake of the devastating loss of life. And there I sat, finding myself hesitating to even click the “like” button. Why? Because I wasn’t sure if it meant I promoted homosexuality.
Fortunately, I had a realization. That made me little better than the old religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They refused to associate with certain people because they refused to have any company with sinners. Jesus embraced them openly. The victims of this recent shooting were people’s children, friends, family, and individuals with hopes and dreams and lifetimes of experiences. The chance to become anything they wanted cut tragically short by an act of psychotic hate. And there I was…doing the same thing the shooter did; defining the entire worth of their lives by them being homosexual. It was little better than the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the priest and the Levite would have rather let a man bleed to death than risk becoming ritualistically “unclean”.
I felt no small measure of disgust at myself at that. I asked myself: “Can I honestly say I’m really all that better than a crazed gunman if deep down in my heart-of-hearts I’m not as sad for these people as I would have been if they were heterosexual? Can I call myself a follower of Christ?”
(On a side note, kudos to Chick-Fil-A for jumping up and readily doing something I should have.)
My prayer for today is not only that we show the world our faith, but let them know that it’s real and not just another set of religious dogma…and that we do so by embodying Lord Jesus’ commission to be the light of the world. That includes now in the wake of this act of despicable hate and horrific tragedy.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for the gift of my faith and for the events in my life that have led me to you and your Salvation. As I share this gift with others and the good news of the Gospel, please help me to always be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and to define my Christian faith always more by what I bring to others than what I shout down, crusade against, or take away. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”