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January 30, 2007

Choices.

We make them every day. From the snooze bar to the ice cream bar to the wet bar. The little choices pave the way for the big choices and rarely does one make a singular spectacular bad choice in the middle of a thoughtful and productive life.

As believers the responsibility to make good choices is, to me, much more apparent.

This responsibility lies not solely in the repercussions of our lifestyle but also in the very obvious if not always acknowledged weight of Whom we represent.

Does G-d need my defense to be holy and just? Does He need my life to accurately reflect the parameters written in His Word for His Word to have eternal impact?

No.

However the impact of a believer living irresponsibly will reverberate down through generations. Take the pastor who has the affair with the secretary and they run off to Vegas to start a new life together.

Let’s take a hypothetical look at the youth group. John becomes cynical and questions his faith, Jillian abandons virtue and Devon decides that the “church scene” isn’t for him. Devon’s gonna worship in “his own way”. He’s going to stay away from those stupid hypocrites and liars who try to act as though they are better than everyone.

John goes on to college and gets his doctorate in Political Science and his MBA. He works for his local political party until he becomes disillusioned with the whole process and decides he could “do a better job”. Next thing you know it’s John’s face on the billboard with his smiling blonde wife and their 1.5 kids. He’s positioned himself to influence and set policy for the masses. But without faith.

Jillian wanders from relationship to relationship until she finds herself pregnant and abandoned. She works two jobs and raises her son in daycare. Alone. Bitter. Angry. She turns to what used to work for her and winds up used up, beat up and scared. She’s only 35.

Devon’s private worship takes him into the forest where he meets a group of so very friendly young coeds. He finds acceptance without responsibility and gratification without consequence. He chooses to deviate. Not much, just a smidge from what he used to believe and gradually his path twists and turns until one day he wakes up and questions the existence of a Judeo-Christian G-d. How a monotheistic theology must limit the Infinite Creator he thinks. Not wanting to “limit” his spiritual expression he opens his consciousness to every truth that strikes his fancy. Since it’s been so long since he spent any time studying the Divine and Inspired Word of the True G-d he is easily fooled and led astray by a convenient and comfortable spirituality which only affirms his natural state without bringing hope to his broken spirit.

A purely fictional tale. I’m sure I over exaggerated here and there. Do I really mean to tell you that one man’s indiscretion could cause a chain reaction this volatile? John, Jillian & Devon didn’t become axe murderers and rapists for Pete’s sake! No. But they lost the Truth. In their weakness and immaturity they were not protected but victimized by the choice of those given the responsibility to lead them toward the paths of righteousness.

I suppose we could have compassion on those who aren’t able to cope with the same strength and purpose we possess. We could have grace for those who aren’t able to separate the person from the indiscretion. Identity from action. We could.

Or we could tell them to suck it up and realize that’s just how life is. If you want G-d badly enough you should be able to find Him regardless of my choices and my decisions.

We could do that. It’s rather disgusting when I realize that’s how we usually respond.

But Paul would show us a better way. Wouldn’t he? Patient, kind, gentle, not jealous or boastful, not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs. Refusing to gloat over the sin of another. Taking delight in the truth. Always bearing up, always trusting, always hoping, and always enduring. Without end.

Love doesn’t place the importance of my own need for affirmation or gratification over the well-being of the younger and often weaker brother or sister who watches my life with bated breath. The little ones watch and hope. Perhaps as I struggle and walk and stumble and walk and repent and walk the reality of the strength G-d gives will be inspiring to those following behind. Catching up. Passing me up. Encouraging me when it’s my turn to fall behind.

It’s not when you are the smartest, the most charismatic, the most eloquent when you are the most useful in the kingdom of G-d. It’s when you are the most willing. The most humble. The most obedient to the Truth you know. It’s when you scour the Word looking for the discrepancies in your own life and willingly laying down your life to conform to a holy image as you see it reflected in the Word of G-d.

Many times it’s not the affable and well-spoken teacher up front who speaks most poignantly to my soul. It’s the weeping woman in the front row or the delighted child who dances. Arms outstretched, eyes closed. Breathless before G-d. I am sharpened and refined by the example of the determined man who will not let the issue down until he gains understanding. Where is the one who will wrestle until he receives the blessing? Where is the one willing to be humiliated if that’s what G-d requires? Where is the one willing to be vulnerable even if no one understands and everyone may turn against them?

What do we risk when we say we believe? What do we offer when we say we are willing to stand up and serve?

Sadly, too many of us are comfortably watching the parade of life and busily perfecting our forms of religion.

And we wonder why our faith is dry and our relationships sour. We wonder why we can’t seem to find a congregation that will “feed us” or “meet our needs”.

Perhaps if we spent more time evaluating our little choices we would see the cumulative calamity of our selfishness and immaturity washing our religiosity and self-preservation into a sea of complacency. A blessing to no one and an offense to many.

Aren’t you glad there is a better way?