Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning Curve

I am still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely in the the arms of God. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Teacher...You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?" But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at at it." He asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's they replied. Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."  ~ Mark 12:13-17


One of the things that separates Jesus--the original Christian, from much of today's Christianity, is Scripture's record of his constant engagement with his world. Jesus made no attempt to surround himself with those who would protect him from the hard questions, and the hard-nosed. Indeed, there were those  who followed him in awe, and leaned favorably toward his message, but mostly we see Jesus living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities among those who pushed-back against his message. Jesus didn't proclaim himself The Way, The Truth, and The Life, and then never lead the way, debate truth, and engage in real-life. 

Jesus' example and Bonhoeffer's confession are worthy of every believer's  careful consideration. I say that because we, as Believers, often shrink back from the hard questions and hard-nosed people of our world. We know The Truth, The Way, and The Life, but instead, may play it safe and cloister with those who are of like mind and like language and insulate ourselves. That is not at all how Jesus went about his days. 

A second thought--one I have had to address in my own life. Most of my adult life has been spent in vocational Christian ministry. During that time I've had many un-churched/non-religious friends, and I engaged with them as their life unfolded outside the church. However, the lion's share of my time was spent with people who shared most of the values I did, and spoke a common language heavily accented by the Faith. But in the last five years I have been working in secular environments, and the ratios have completely reversed. Now, I spend a little bit of time immersed in a Christian culture, and a whole lot of time around many people only marginally connected to Christianity. On a day-to-day basis, I am no longer surrounded by a pastoral and church staff, or gathering with masses of people who carry Bibles, and know the words to praise music. 

That being said, the last five years have been a time of discovery. First, in spending as much time in a non-church environment I have discovered that many Christians in the workplace choose to disengage in the very world God has placed them to show the Way, share the Truth, and live the Life. I have battled my own temptation to assimilate into a mindset and actions that requires no faith. 

My new environment sets the stage for a challenging learning curve of faith. I am embracing it and enjoying the adventure. To paraphrase Bonhoeffer's quote--I am continually discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that I am learning to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, I have to throw myself completely into the arms of God. 

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