Wednesday, 29 August 2012
I have at times been mocked for being a sheep, which is of course meant to be an insult for Christians. Many think that we don’t think for ourselves and that we blindly follow our shepherd Jesus -- in other words we are brainwashed. Of course this can be true, for there are cults of all kinds and many of them are not religious in nature. So it is no surprise that there are Christian cults out there.
I had a friend a few years ago who told me that he was a free thinker. He made himself, his own man, etc. So I agreed with him but added: Okay, if you say so, however you do have your DNA, your upbringing, schooling, and your friends, many who are like-minded, and pretty much say the same things you do.
I continued: Then there are your teachers in college who were pretty strong in their "free-thinking-ism," but from what you tell me, they sounded pretty much the same as all so-called "free-thinkers."
Then I went on: Then of course there is television and radio constantly telling us what to wear, what to think and how we should look. So yes apart from all that, I would think you are a self-created man.
So he said, "Well what about you?"
"I am no different my friend," I responded. The problem is seeking to free ourselves of influences that limit us and perhaps even cause harm to our souls.
In the past as well as today, we Christians can often fail when we do not truly listen to the one who calls us, our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We can easily fall into the ‘mass-mind’ that seeks to control all of us.
Jesus does not call us to some kind of moral agenda, but to live a live of openness to his love and grace. Grace heals our hearts, expands our ability to relate and love others. When this happens, we do not (hopefully) look upon others as objects to use or to knock out of our way. If we think of our Christian path as one of some kind of moral agenda, then we will start to compare ourselves to others; if we fail, we could seek to hide it behind a mask of deception. This can often lead to a stronger aversion to those who share our same sin, our weakness.
The closest group modern pious Christian can relate to from the New Testament is not sinners and those on the fringe, but the Pharisees. We know the scriptures, or least those parts that don’t challenge us so much as we want to challenge others. We can thank God that we are not like those others, who do not follow our path. We praise God that we are not like those with whom he hung out with, but are more like the holy, outwardly clean professionally religious, part of the population.
Who do we listen to? Do we listen to the words of the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians? Do we ponder the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount? Do we enter into the stories that show us how Jesus related to others who were ousted by society? I struggle to listen to the voice of my Savior and fail often.
Yet I begin again, get up and seek to love more and to be open to the grace of God. Our hearts expand when we respond to grace and makes acts of trust and yes of love. We need to take steps, to respond, which is also a response to the invitation of grace. We are called to respect others, to gently share our faith and hope and then leave the rest to the Holy Spirit, to trust in Gods saving will for all peoples.
I do believe we have free will, which means we choose. The problem is another thing Jesus said: we are not to judge, because we do not see -- only God sees the heart. We can only be present to others, exhort and accept were they are at, without watering down our own faith. People know when they are seen, not labeled and boxed in.
The Samaritan woman was most likely ousted not only by the Jews, but also by her own people because of her lifestyle. Yet Jesus talked to her, accepted her and by doing so, he healed and brought her into a deeper relationship with God. This seeing that Jesus did, also had an affect on the whole town, bringing many to deep inner healing and to a more trusting and loving relationship with God. We can do more by loving, accepting and exhorting others than by brow beating and judging.
Let us seek to be truthful but gentle to those around us, who -- like many of us, like me in fact-- can be fragile and fearful. Anger is often a response based on fear. It is also a rational response against being forced in to a tight corner where the one angry feels that he or she is reduced to a stereotype, something not real. Stereotypes are simplistic, two dimensional ideas, people are not two dimensional but deep and complex and made in the image and likeness of God.
Who do you listen to? Is there someone who influences you and your identity? Who should influence your identity? How does listening to God to determine who you are help you to see others more clearly?