Friday, March 6, 2009

Crisis of belief?

Let me preface this post by stating that I am very well aware that some of my readers are liberal, both politically and religiously . This is by no means a crack at you, if you are. I am simply inclined to write my feelings on this subject in particular but am in no manner condemning you if you disagree. That is not my place to do.

Lately, I have been presented in more ways than one, a lifestyle that is widely accepted by my peers. I'm struggling because while I know how I believe the way that I do, I am often questioning my beliefs. My mind tends to play tricks on me as I converse with myself back and forth on an issue that I am unsure of and eventually, my heart disrupts this dispute and I can finally feel at ease with my credence.

To some, living out love and peace is all that we must do as "Christians" and believers. To some, Christianity is a title that is taken on to play it "safe" and feel no condemnation for the things that they do . Afterall, they are "Christians" and they believe that once they accept this title, they are automatically under grace and nothing they say or do can break that. To some, Christianity is just "another religion" and Jesus is simply a wise teacher they look to for life lessons and wisdom but they do not credit Him as their savior.

Who are they
? An array of people across the globe. I'm speaking of no one in particular here.

I am intrigued by other's opinions. I find other views and beliefs to be extremely interesting but I also find them to be disheartening.

There must be some substance to what I believe. I simply cannot believe something just because much of the eastern world does and it happens to thrill me. There are so many different world views, ideologies, assumptions, philosophies and religions that I could never in my lifetime know extents about. There are also many influences that circulate outrageous beliefs and ideas.

I am certain that everyone struggles with what theologians and philosophers have struggled with for thousands of years. "What will happen to me when I die?" "How can I be a good person?" "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Unfortunately, these questions are difficult to answer no matter how intelligent you are or how much you have studied God and religion. Our mere human minds will never be able to fully comprehend or wrap around God. We cannot put Him in a box, we cannot figure Him out, and we most definitely cannot understand everything that happens or know why it happened.

A sense of justice leads us to choose standards. We feel the need to live up to something, to live for something, to believe in something. This desire is ingrained within us, we are created to believe. If you set standards which you can easily reach, you limit the amount of self-inflicted pain you will suffer, but if you acquire, say, a Calvinist conscience you set yourself impossible standards, and berate yourself for your constant failure to live up to them. We're all prone to failure and fall, no matter how religious or "holy" some may seem, they have in some way disappointed themselves and others. It is vital to set standards but we must be realistic in doing so. High expectations often reap deep disappointments.

I am rooted in my faith and though I have an endless amount of questions, I oddly find comfort in knowing that I am not required to know all of the answers. I feel that knowing essentially everything would be a burden much too large to bear. I find hope in knowing that I was created for a purpose and I desire to live a life of love and truth, not in flawlessness or perfection because I know I will never be any of that. That however gives me no permit whatsoever to live however I please because I know that I am bound to mess up. Grace is an absolutely incredible gift but grace does not give us a pass to live however we please simply because we are "under God's grace".

I've seen many children who grew up under "The Holiness Movement" be sucked into a tragic belief and ridiculous hypothesis- “I just discovered grace. Now I can do many of the things that were once called sin.” I'm more guilty than not. I have found it to be so easy and coercing to slip into this false mindset. I call it "justification".

I'm reminded by a passage in scripture that utters “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15) It is the same response as in verse 2: “By no means!” Paul’s justifiable impatience showed. He could not comprehend how someone liberated by grace could so easily become indulgent again, for true grace reaches back and embraces the law but now with the fervor of love and the spirit of obedience. God forces nothing upon us. We are given a clear choice and will. He does not even force His grace upon us.

Here is a distinct fact we need to face. To offer oneself to sin is to become its slave, but to offer oneself to righteousness is also to become its slave. Sin leads to death, but obedience leads to life and righteousness. How could it be put more succinctly? Both choice and consequence are abundantly clear.

Paul’s word choice is penetrating. Slavery speaks of an encounter of mastery and servitude and deals in ultimates. The parameters are clearly set. Sin enslaves. There is no middle ground. In wonderful contrast, however, is another slavery — the slavery of righteousness. It too has the capacity of dominance and control. It is the life consumed by Christ. Consumed being the key word here. To be consumed by something is to be completely and utterly wrapped up in it. If we are really and truly consumed by Jesus, then I do not believe that we would feel okay living as though we are simply under a law of grace. I think that we would come to love His law and commandments as they are provided for our protection and best interest.

For instance, as children, our parents set rules and boundaries for us. We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if we crossed those boundaries or broke those rules, there would be consequences. Was there ever a time where we broke a rule and thought, "Oh I just slapped my little sister or brother across the face as hard as I could but it's cool, I'm under Daddy's grace". I don't think so. If I remember correctly, I would get really scared and feel foolish. There were times when my mom or dad would graciously and lovingly put me in my place, but there were ALWAYS consequences. I was not permitted to act however I please because they loved me and wanted what was best for me. It's a tough world. My parents did me a duty by teaching me at a young age the lessons and consequences of bad behavior. It's the same with God. He knows we screw up from time to time and that's why His grace is amazing, but in my opinion His mercy is what is even more incomprehensible to me. The fact that he would send His son to a fallen world to be brutally chastised and murdered for a bunch of ungrateful, wicked sinners is so far beyond me. That, my friend is why we must take responsibility for our actions and sins. His grace is sufficient for me, but His mercy is powerful and redeems me when I do not deserve it.

The topic of grace can be taken to extremes both ways, in my opinion. I feel deeply that I am responsible for the actions I take and for the sins that I commit. I feel as though I have become numb to conviction due to this mindset that has so easily crept in. Sure, I've been cut, wounded and deeply scarred by the "church" but I cannot live my life blaming the church as a whole and pointing my finger of criticism and disgust. It makes me a bitter person. I do feel that many churches are hypocritical, demanding, abusive and abrasive and I loathe that I have seen so many lives disrupted and torn apart due to a falling out at a church. They are not all this way. I must keep in mind that humans are humans and humans are imperfect. I must dispose of the mindset that every church is this way and that every leader will hurt me. It is so hard though. I know that I need to come to a place where I release all of my preconceived ideas and notions and fully rely upon the rock that never fails. People fail me, I fail myself but He does not. I'm gulty of blaming my sweet Savior for my heartache and I hate that I have done that.

So, I ask you, why do you believe the way that you do? Whatever it may be. I'm not doing this to be preachy or arrogant. I am simply curious to see across the board, what your answer entails.

Thank you for bearing with me and reading if you got this far. I know that this post was pretty long and all over the place. I hope that my wording and phrasing did not entirely confuse you.


Anonymous said...

Well Amber...

I believe the way I do because there is so much beauty in everyone, regardless of who they are, who they love, or what their beliefs may be - We are all God's children no matter what and He created every single one of us equally - How can I not love my brothers and sisters? - How can I judge them for being who they are?

Heather said...

You should read The Shack by William Young. I have included the link so you can check it out. I think what is important is your personal relationship with God. As humans we all make mistakes and sin. But these mistakes help us learn and grow as people. God tests us with certain situations to see how deep our faith runs and to build our character. Gods love is unconditonal. I think after reading this book you will have a better insight. It is a really good book :) It doesn't matter what religion you are, I think every person should take the time to read it. Let me know if you end up getting it


AmberDenae said...

Hi Heather, I have actually read the shack. Great book. Thanks for the reference though! :)

Heather said...

OoOoH! lol..I've been telling everyone to read it. Hope your delima is settled :)

Alyssa said...

wow!! good post!! i believe the way i do (on moral issues) based on the bible. feelings can really lead you astray. you know!! but they can be so strong & seem real!

Anonymous said...

Amber - this is an amazing post, and so many of these thoughts fly through my mind often.

Regarding the sin - last summer I was mentoring young HS girls, and they wanted to accept Jesus in their hearts (again) knowing they have said this before but "failed". I tried to remind them that just because we know Jesus will forgive us does not mean that we can sin. In fact, I think it gives us an even bigger reason not to. I am human, and I slip and fall. I know Jesus will pick me back up and find me in my darkest hours, but I feel even more sorrow after I do something that I should not have done. I know Jesus forgives me when I ask him to, but I feel like I knew better, and I feel like I let him down ...

anyway, I believe the same way you do, and I can see where your questions come from. I've asked them too!!

Thank you for this wonderful post. I needed this tonight!