Tuesday, February 19, 2008

lift me up and let me stand

I have heard that non-Christians may complain the Christian faith is overly simplistic. It gives too many glib answers without taking into account the way the world really is, they say. Yet as I read the Bible and talk with pastors and other believers, it keeps coming up that the record we have of Christianity considers all aspects of human life. Take the Psalms: not only do you find devotion, trust, and piety, you also find fear, hatred, and accusations. The heroes of the Bible are sometimes the most fantastic sinners—proving that God really can work his will through dire circumstances, and that we have hope he can work in us, unworthy though we are. Questions are raised, such as in Job or Ecclesiastes or Romans, and left unanswered. What is constant, and miraculous, is the assurance that God loves us and wants to bless us. If we don’t wrestle with the questions of how God’s love is revealed, how we should share it with those around us, and why God doesn’t operate the way we expect him to, then that is our own shortcoming, not the religion’s. Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” says the writer of Hebrews. It is not a blindfold. We can trust and still inquire. We can pray and still not understand. The benefit in this life of being a Christian is that we gain, sometimes slowly but always in increasing measure, the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; as Paul points out, “against such things there is no law.” And we have the story and the promise of a God who is carefully involved in our history and our lives. There’s nothing simple about that.

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