When I try to remember the images and lessons from the Sunday school classes of my youth, the details are sketchy at best. I honestly don’t remember a single solitary moment that stands out as a lesson learned and cherished. I was a senior in high school before I was exposed to the principle of osmosis. My memory of that seems to apply to the process of what I apparently retained from all those Sunday morning classes. What I came away with was a basic set of morals by which I was expected to live my life. Don’t lie, cheat, steal, kill and the rest of the don’ts. The odd thing is that I don’t think I ever absorbed a thing about the dos. Well, maybe the part about “honor thy father and mother.” But then again, I may have picked that up at home as much as in Sunday school lessons.
When I finally began to really examine the totality of my beliefs, after losing my bride to cancer in my mid fifties, I gradually awakened to the huge gap in my early Christian education. There wasn’t any memory of discussions or descriptions of the nature of God. Maybe it was just assumed that I would automatically absorb that knowledge. Sure, there was the universal “Heavenly Father” bit, but that was it because after all God was GOD.
I’ve written previously about coming to the realization of how my relationship with Dad, my earthly father affected the nature of the way I related to my Heavenly Father and the huge obstacle that presented. (See my blog entry of 2/13/2013 “A Father’s Image”) Dad seldom discussed spiritual issues. In fact I only remember one specific discussion and it had to do with life after death. Dad had created in his mind what heaven, or whatever followed this life, would be like. But what he envisioned was totally unrelated to anything found in scripture. And that brings me to my point.
Last night when I was doing what I do every night; reading my bible until my eyelids are ready to slam shut, a thought which has surfaced from time to time, bubbled up once again. But this time it demanded that I stop what I was doing and make an entry in my “Nothing Notebook.” What I wrote was this:
“When someone says, ‘I believe God is such-and-such, and goes on to describe “what” their idea of God is, how is that different from a person who carves a graven image from stone, clay or wood and worships it? God’s ability to have a unique relationship with each of us does not mean that we can define Him.”
As a Christian it’s incumbent on me to share my faith as often, and with as many people, as I can; and I do exactly that. I’ve found one common thread in the responses I get from people. That thread is this: they universally have created an idea of whom and/or what God or the universe or whatever they relate to, which is greater than they are. And it requires absolutely nothing of them beyond being a nice person. In many cases that higher power seems to be quite tolerant of transgressions and untruths that benefit the believer as long as they are a “nice person.”
In that light I’m reminded of Demetrius the Ephesian silversmith whose livelihood of making graven images of the Greek goddess Artemis was threatened by Paul’s efforts to share The Good News with the citizens of Ephesus. Demetrius definitely didn’t want Paul sharing his vision because it threatened Demetrius’ very reason for getting up every morning and the sanctity of the little images he and his employees were creating out of their imagination each day.
The most frequent response I hear from people at the mention of church, Christianity, faith, God, or heaven forbid, Jesus, is “well I just don’t think you have to go to church to be a Christian.” Another favorite is “I don’t believe in God the way you do. I don’t think he … blah blah, blah.” Really? How do you know that? You don’t know how I believe until I tell you. And one last favorite which I was particularly fond of using, “I was raised a ________ and I just got burned out on religion.”
Many of these people have actually studied the bible, and at one time or another professed a belief in God and or Jesus, but somewhere along the line they lose sight of what “faith” is all about. At the core of Judeo-Christian faith is trust in something so big, so awesome that trying to define it is futile. Faith for me is a belief that the nature of God and whatever lies ahead are so incredible in scope and experience that the only regret I will have, is having wasted so much as one minute trying to define it; explain it; worrying about what it will be like.
Jesus was very explicit in his definition of faith when he said about the children being brought to him for blessings: “… Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14-15 NLT)
That verse is so pregnant with meaning and importance that frankly it just boggles my mind. And it’s the one verse that anyone who avoids a relationship with The Trinity needs to understand. You see, children don’t define their world. Children accept their world on faith as it’s revealed to them each day.
As adults, we tend to not only define our world, but over-define it, because with age comes distrust in our world. So, we attempt to shape and define our beliefs to match our circumstance and emotions. That’s what the Hebrew’s were attempting to do when they made the golden calf. God’s friend and servant Moses, the one being they could see and touch, hadn’t been seen for days. The golden calf was a representation of a total lack of faith in something when they couldn’t see it. In spite of the fact that they’d witnessed miracle after miracle, they just had to create their own idea of God; an idea they could see and which didn’t require faith in its existence.
So I ask, “Have you created your own ‘golden calf’ to cover a lack of faith?”