I stumbled across this quote from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out while looking for something else entirely. This was obviously a meant to be stumble upon as it sent me into questions and thoughts on the authenticity of my faith and actions.
Authentic faith leads us to treat others with unconditional seriousness and to a loving reverence for the mystery of the human personality. Authentic Christianity should lead to maturity, personality, and reality. It should fashion whole men and women living lives of love and communion. False, manhandled religion produces the opposite effect. Whenever religion chows contempt or disregards the rights of persons, even under the noblest pretexts, it draws us away from reality and God.
These are powerful words. They made me stop. Think. Ponder.
What is the state of my faith?
Is it authentic? Is it real?
I think so, but on closer examination, it may not bear detailed scrutiny.
True, I have been in the church all of my life. My parents began taking me as an infant, confirmed at age nine in the Methodist Church, attended a Methodist college, met my second husband in the Methodist church where we both sang in choir and married there, and we’ve always attended church since we married, now in the Presbyterian church.
That may be a good track record. But what about those empty white spaces between the letters and words?
What fills in those spaces?
True, I’ve done my share of good works learning at the feet of my mother about giving back by volunteering. I taught Sunday School classes, helped with youth programs, served on various church committees and boards, sung in the choirs of many churches, and more.
Those activities also add up to perhaps commendable efforts on my part.
But…well, then…what about?
What about the things I haven’t done? My sins of omission? There are some, perhaps too many.
What about our children, grandchildren and other family members and their faith state?
Of our three children, not one and his/her family attends church or participates in any faith group, at least to our knowledge. One child even confesses to being an atheist. This is not our fault as parents. We attempted to teach our children the love of God and the importance of a relationship with the triune God. However, now in this stage of life, it became easier to avoid the subject of faith and our beliefs to avoid any confrontations or angry discussions.
Was this giving authentic honor to our beliefs, traditions and faith? Not at all. And lately, I’ve tiptoed around these subjects less lightly. What I believe is to be shared with anyone and most importantly with our sons, daughter, and other family, or it is not an authentic faith.
What about the nights I didn’t volunteer to serve meals at the homeless shelter with our small group from church?
Often my husband and I didn’t go because we “had a conflict” or something “came up at the last minute.” Bottom line, my husband felt less comfortable in the presence of our homeless brothers and sisters than I did, but I decided, whether right or wrong, that he would be more comfortable if I didn’t go. Hopefully that would make him feel less of a standout as not participating.
Wonder how I would feel if I was one of the homeless waiting for a hot meal and I learned that I made someone uncomfortable? We have no way of knowing what brought these people to a state of homelessness, and who are we to judge them based on the place they live or don’t live. The time I have on this earth is a gift from God, and if my faith is authentic, my time is spent in serving others, no matter their circumstances.
What about conversations with friends who aren’t Christians or who forego their Christianity for purposes of fitting in? Do I do that?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. I’ve been in conversations where others are talked about, made fun of, and more. Perhaps I didn’t take part verbally, but my silence was affirmation that I agreed with the words being shared.
And what about those conversations where profanity is used? Do I fall in with the crowd? Sometimes. Do I excuse myself? Sometimes. Do I speak out? Never. Not very authentic then, am I?
I’m constantly working on this in my life. My humanity must not win out over my faith.
I could probably go on and on, but these are good examples from my life. I know there are more but it would make this post much too lengthy.
In Matthew 17, the disciples’ attempts to heal a boy of seizures fail. Then Jesus comes along and the boy’s father approached Jesus who instructed the man to bring the child to him. Jesus then rebuked the demon and it was cast out and the boy healed. Matthew 17: 19-20 (NET) shares:
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” He told them, “It was because of your little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.” (Emphasis mine.)
Does my faith seem as little faith?
A mustard seed is quite tiny, smaller even than little.
Does this mean that my faith is not as effective as “faith the size of a mustard seed?”
Perhaps this is true.
And if this is the case, I must work to correct this failing in my faith.
If His light does not shine through me as authentic and real, then my faith isn’t revealed to those around me. This is why He has made me in His own likeness–to show others His love, His grace, the hope He brings.
This is what I am to be about every day everywhere.
What about you?