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Commonsense Christianity

Difficult questions aren't answered quickly, but require a lot of reflection, study, prayer, and thought. Reflection, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Difficult questions aren’t answered quickly, but require a lot of reflection, study, prayer, and thought. Reflection, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I don’t mean for this to sound like the first line of a cheesy bar joke, but do you know how to get Christians reading your blog post, buying your book, or listening to your sermon?

Use a title with the word “should” in it, as in:

“Should Christians decorate and hide eggs at Easter?”

“Should Christians teach their children about Santa Claus?”

“Should Christians drink alcohol?”

Fill in the blanks with any activity that doesn’t have a definite for or against statement in it in the Bible (Thou shalt not commit adultery), and you’ve got a winner that will draw in all sorts of people who rely on others, not their own reading of the Bible and communication with God, to tell them how they are supposed to live.

How Shall We Then Live?

Not all Christians, fortunately. Many of my readers are highly spirited, engagingly intelligent children of the King who spend a lot of time in the royal parlor — listening, meditating, questioning, talking back, arguing, accepting, and learning — and they give me hope for 21st century, contemporary American Christianity. When they have a question, along the lines of,

“Even if Jesus didn’t have a tongue piercing, does that mean I can’t?”

they rely upon hours, days, and years worth of time spent reading the Bible — on their own — and communicative prayer with the Master. It doesn’t matter to them what the TV Evangelist of the Day says — it matters what God says. And they don’t need the Evangelist to interpret God’s word for them.

We Are Sheep, Not Sheeple

If I sound insensitive, harsh, and frustrated, well gosh, I guess that’s because I am — at least the frustrated part, because when Christ describes us as sheep, He didn’t use the word “sheeple,” and He didn’t intend that we replace Him, the Great Shepherd, with a series of human gurus. For every name of fame that actually has something to say, there’s another one who got to the top of the heap because of a silver tongue capable of generating a lot of gold, or because Dad was there first.

Our Great Shepherd leads each of us to the field where we need to be. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Our Great Shepherd leads each of us to the field where we need to be. Field of Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Any time the name of the author is bigger and more prominent than the title of the book, I spend my money on a latte instead.

Of course, you don’t have to be famous — just amazingly confident in a manly, authoritative or womanly, compassionate sort of way, pronouncing judgment and opinion with inflexible assurance.

We attended a church once where a series of women, especially, never called the pastor by his name, just, “Pastor.”

“Pastor said this.”

“Pastor told such a funny joke!”

“Are you having Pastor for dinner on Sunday?”

Suffice it to say that, no matter what Pastor said, these women did not argue. Pastor was always right. That’s a whole lotta confidence to place in one human being.

Test the Spirits, and the Speakers

1 John 4:1 tells us, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 is more succinct: “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

These verses are addressed to you and me, my friend, individual Christians who are responsible to read, interpret, and meditate upon what God says, and while we can use the thoughts of other people — whose expertise in certain areas add dimension and knowledge — to reach our conclusions, we should not ultimately rely on any other human being to do the testing for us.

Throughout history, many people have died in the process of getting the Bible translated into the language that we speak and read. The best way we can honor their sacrifice is to read the Bible, regularly, for ourselves, and spend time in direct prayer with God, asking for His guidance and teaching.

 

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