Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Are Here

How does a Christian respond to the things of the world?  There are a lot of terrible things happening right now.  There really have been a lot of terrible things happening throughout history.  Christians have at times responded well and responded poorly.

A challenge to a proper response to the world is that many Christians lack a certain understanding of how Christian ideology should apply to the world around them.  Christians lack a certain unifying philosophical perspective on life.

Most people do not understand their own personal philosophies or where they originate.  Thus, we are not really able to calculate our actions, reactions, and interactions with those around us.

Here is an example: Most Americans believe that people should have freedom, and this freedom can only be taken away by the justice system for infractions against freedom.  When problems arise in Africa, the Middle East, and in Asia, Americans believe that freedom, democracy, and capitalism are the answers to the issues.

This is a fundamental philosophy that we hold and we do not really even know why.  Thus, our answers to the problems around us are really not based on the actual problem, but more based on our philosophy of life.  Problems are often much more complex than simple glib answers, but the glib answers allow us to shirk any real thoughtful action on a certain situation.

Another example: We believe hard work will lead to success.  So you ask some wealthy people about helping poor people and you might get some callous responses like, “They just need to work harder.”  This is not really a callous response, rather it is an oversimplified response based out of someone’s life philosophy.  Our philosophy is largely based on our experience.  For that particular wealthy person hard work has paid off, but for many disadvantaged people hard work may not produce the same results.  Thus, divergent philosophies begin to develop based on life experience.  The relative “worth” of hard work is dependent on many factors.

One thing can be said for certain is that two people living in the same society can have dramatically views on the world based on their experience and socialization.  Whether we realize it or not, our philosophy on life affects every decision we make.

Nothing could be more important than developing the proper view of the world around.  We must consider another example based on Christian axiom: God helps those who help themselves.  Many people assert this philosophy sure that the testimony of Scripture backs this understanding.  It is false in many ways and is not Biblical.  It is based on the idea of the Christian work ethic that pervaded America throughout its history.  It rang true to many who felt that hard work lead to their success.  Thus, an axiom was created to help them define their success and still give a little nod to the work of God in our lives.

First, this axiom is not in the Bible.  Second, it is troubling because it does not mirror the authentic Christian experience.  For something to be true, it must be able to be applied across all cultural experiences.  You do not have to read Christian history long to understand that this statement is actually against some of the very fundamentals of Christianity.  Did God help Paul because Paul helped himself?  Did God help Stephen because Stephen helped himself?  Did God help Abraham because Abraham helped himself?  Are you worthy of forgiveness because you helped yourself?  Once you begin to flesh out this axiom it is easy to see how false it really is.  We must scrub this philosophy from our lives.

I use this only as an example of how insidious some philosophies on life can be.  We must be thoughtful and reflective on our views.  Humanity is greater than its conditioned response to a situation.  We have the capacity to learn, to grow.  It takes more than just muddling through.  It takes actual reflection on life.  It takes reflecting on your behavioral patterns, both bad and good.  It takes understanding yourself.

We cannot really understand ourselves until we understand where we fit into the cosmos.  Most Christians have answered this question.  We should view our lives and our actions in understanding that there is an active, just, and loving God.  Christians of all stripes would agree on a basic understanding of God.  While we cannot really understand all there is to know about God, we can understand His character through the reading of the Word.  However we miss God many times; we do not know what He wants because we have not studied His Word.  We have not let His Word and His character inform our actions; rather we seek to explain our actions by abusing His Word.

I am not attempting to argue the existence God to someone who does not believe in Him.  Rather, this is a call for Christians to understand where they fit into the world.  Also, it is an attempt to let people truly see the world, to help us really understand the problems we face.  We have too quickly adopted the mindset of the world.  This has prevented us from confronting evil the way we should.  This has caused us to be overly sensitive to certain things.

I remember being young and going Christmas shopping at Governor’s Square mall in Tallahassee, FL.  This was really the first time my parents let me navigate something on my own.  At intervals around the mall there were maps.  You could find your location using the “You are Here” star on the map.  I loved this.  It comforted me.  I might not have been where I wanted to be, but at least I knew where I was.  The first step in getting where you need to go is in understanding where you are.

We must stop for just a minute and consider why we think or react to certain things in certain ways.  We often do not understand how the fallen world philosophies have taken over our “faith.”  We must take an honest assessment of where we are in the world and what has influenced us.  Only then can we really begin to find where we need to be.

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