Faith Based In Reality

8 Jun

Sometimes a sentence jumps off the page, demanding attention and reaction.  So it was yesterday with this line from the New Testament letter called Philippians, supposed to be written by Paul, and here translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message:

“My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality.”

So many people are writing today about the slow demise of the institutional church, and with good reason.  The latest poll figures confirm that the ground is changing under the structure, and that those who care should take serious note.  My simple suggestion is that those of us associated with the changing church need to have “deep roots in reality”.

Paul was a very practical man as an entrepreneur of the early Jesus movement.  He may have had a mystical moment from time to time, but for the most part he faced the realities of establishing, encouraging, and nurturing little Jesus communities in hostile territories.  He admits that his “prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality”.  So should ours.

Faith based in the realities of the 21st century is urgent because sometimes we in the institution base our work in Fantasy…”God will provide even if we don’t”; in History…”we can make it like it used to be when times were happier”; in Dishonesty…”don’t worry, everything is wonderful and our future is secure”; and even in Arrogance…”we alone are responsible; we can chart the course ourselves”.

Here’s what is often heard from non-reality based faith:

“We don’t have time (or need) to discern; we can decide!”   Or, “Once we attract people, we can hold onto them forever”.  Or, “We can have better programs if we try harder.”  Or, “The more we do, the better we are.”  Or, “If we build it (do it, try it), they will come.”  Or, “Just get  people into leadership roles…they will stay until they drop.”

Those statements are simply not reality anymore.  They are based on wishful thinking and poor logic.

I like the way Paul brings this thought to a conclusion.  “So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well.  Learn to love appropriately.  You need to use your head and test your feelings so that love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.”

Time to face and invest in reality.

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