Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An Unpleasant Pillar of Faith

A friend of my often tells me how his co-workers ask why he believes in unpleasant things like Hell and predestination. I always love his response. He refrains from theologically defending unplesantries, instead acknowledging that they aren't particularly pleasing to him either. He finds it incredulous that the questioners think he wants to believe in Hell.

This then begs the question why anyone would believe in something that makes them feel bad when there are so many things to believe in that don't hurt as much? In an age where we generally can get whatever we want, these beliefs run counter to common social sense. Yet, here is what draws my friend, and me, back:

A calling to believe personally unpleasant tenets reminds me that I'm not playing the game of life by my rules.

If everything I believed made me feel warm and fuzzy, my thinking would be flawed. Everyone else in the entire history of the world got it wrong because life runs according to whatever puts a smile on Robert Bennett Humphries's face. Abusrd. And good, especially for those of you who aren't Robert Bennett Humphries. I'm just simply not that smart. I'm just simply not God.

He created the rules, heck, he created the game. At it's core, this is what a Creator God is all about. He made us, and we are utterly indebted to him for everything about our existence. The clay cannot with any integrity make demands on the potter. God made us, the world, and the rules which govern it. We can submit or rebel, but it should not surprise us that everything does not follow our whims, desires, and wills.

We are called to play by God's rules, not the ones of the world. Poverty in a treasure chest of wealth. Humility when confronted by mockery. Evangelism in a room of silence. Brokenness in a world run by power. Discipline amidst distraction. Forgiveness when wronged. Truth against the paper mache of facade. Acknowledged sin in a culture of tolerance. Interest where indifference rules. Love in the face of an enemy. Cross-carrying up a Calvary of couches.

None of this stuff is going to win a popularity contest, as it all runs counter to worldly thinking. The good news is that this is all for our good; what a graceful potter we have. It's just that, in the moment, these things often aren't what I want to do or what I want to believe in.

And it's even more troubling when I have to speak about these unpleasantries to people who don't follow Jesus. I am often embarrassed by these things because I know persecution will follow - not in the form of death sentences like our ancestors received but in the form of social ostracization, the most overwhelming influence that often keeps me from hiding my faith. We end up hated by the world, foreigners in a strange land. I don't like this either, but once again, I'm not making the rules.

If I were to create a religion, it sure wouldn't look like this. And yet it is that fact that stands as one of the most solid pillars on which my personal faith is rooted.

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