Smartphone Faith

Faith is like a smart phone. Smart phones give you access: access to people and access to information. If you have a question about something, you can google it. If you want to get in touch with someone, you can message them. But for your phone to be any good, for it to have any impact on your day-to-day life, you have to bring it with you. If you left it at home all the time, it would still be somewhat useful when you’re at home, but the impact on the rest of your life would be minimal.

See where I’m going with this? One of our natural tendencies is to privatize our relationship with Christ, only accessing it at church or maybe every once in awhile at home. But, when we’re at work, out with friends, in class, or at the grocery store we leave Christ behind like an old Bible on a dusty shelf. This leads to a fractured identity. We become different people in different places.

A lot of this boils down to our desire to be accepted. We want to be accepted by our classmates or non-churched friends and so we act the way they expect us to act when around them. We want to be accepted by our church community and so we act the way they expect us to act when we’re around them. When we’re at work… same deal.

How do we bridge this gap? Do we just choose one group over the other, settle into that identity, and then let the other group(s) go? The answer is a resounding no. If we’re to become congruent people (the same everywhere), it’s not about choosing our church identity over others. Instead, it’s about rejecting any identity that’s based on the acceptance by the acceptance of others. Instead, who we are must flow from Jesus. We are who he says we are (See Ephesians 1 for more). We need to recognize who we are in Christ and then bring that relationship, that identity, everywhere we go: to work, to school, to the marketplace, and yes even to church.

In 2 Kings 5, we read about Naaman, a Syrian military leader who became a follower of Yahweh and then had to figure out how to live out his new identity. Naaman had leprosy, and his Jewish servant girl told him of a man of God in Israel who could heal him. Naaman traveled to see this man of God (Elisha), was healed, and ultimately transformed from the inside out. So now what? Should he quit his job and family in Syria and stay in Israel where his new faith would be accepted? Does he go back home and just pray to God in his closet? Even more complicated, if he does go back to Syria, part of his job is to escort his master into a pagan temple to worship the god Rimmon and to bow down along side him. What to do?

Naaman decides to pack up two “mule loads” of dirt from Israel and brings them with him back to Syrian, to the temple of Rimmon. That way, when he bows down next to his master, he will bow down on the dirt of Israel, symbolizing his worship of Yahweh, the one true God. Naaman took his faith with him. He continued to interact with those who didn’t know the true God. He continued to work in what may have felt at times a hostile context, but he brought his worship of Yahweh with him, right alongside those who were worshipping other gods.
(Note: there are some cases - such as when addictions or abuse are involved - where withdrawal from certain settings is necessary for healing to take place).

In many ways we live in a pagan culture where people worship many things: fame, money, comfort, success, power, and yes even other spiritual gods. You may feel under constant pressure to either conform or withdraw. Do some self-diagnoses: are you congruent? Do you act and talk pretty differently in different places? Do you long for acceptance by others? Do you feel like your identity is grounded in Christ? Are you who he says you are? Next, consider how, like Naaman, how you can pursue congruence in faith. How can you bring your worship of Jesus right alongside the belief systems of others, not to mix the two, but to be a living witness of what a life lived with Jesus looks like? As you consider these things, I pray that you would pursue faithfulness to Christ over the acceptance of people.

Sean's Picks:

The Chosen - This is the first ever, multi-season television show about the life of Christ and his disciples. While there is some creative storytelling involved, the theology of this show so far is rock solid. The Chosen does an excellent job of exploring the implications of Jesus' incarnation for the real lives of his disciples and others who encountered him. I have been moved to tears on multiple occasions as I've watched the life-changing love of Jesus in action. You can watch the first episode for free below and then click here to purchase the first season. You'll be glad you did. Also, here's a great review of the show from The Gospel Coalition.

Missions Spotlight:
First Choice Women's Resource Centers

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