We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Be Ready to Explain

In the Laughing Bird Paraphrase, I Peter 3:12-16 reads, "It is unlikely that anyone will be out to get you because of your enthusiasm for doing what is good. But even if some do set out to make you suffer for doing the right thing, you are still on a winner. Don’t be afraid of them, and don’t let them get you down. Stand your ground, and give your allegiance and obedience to Christ before all others. Be ready to explain yourself to everybody who questions why you live with such confidence. Don’t be pushy or aggressive, but never hesitate to give them a quiet and respectful answer. Keep your nose clean so that if things turn nasty, and somebody starts misrepresenting your commitment to doing what is right as followers of Christ, your record will speak for itself. If you have made sure that the mud won’t stick to you, those who throw it will end up wearing it themselves." (emphasis added)

The charge made against mainline churches is that we are too liberal and do not "really" believe.  We have a weak faith—obviously, because we're liberals.  The consequence is that our churches are losing members.  One important issue in a much more complex scenario is that too few members of mainline churches take the advice of the above passage to heart.  We aren't ready to explain our faith.  Most members haven't really thought it through, read a bit of theology, or done some serious Bible study & reflection.  Most aren't interested in "such stuff."  Mainline churches are often very good about service, the doing part of faith, but as good as they are at sharing their faith through deeds, just so weak are they at sharing their faith through personal witness at appropriate times and in appropriate ways.

In the mainline, we need to get over the attitude that "talk is cheap," and we need to reverse the one that holds, "more do and less talk."  In fact, what we too often need is less almost frenetic "do" and more reflection and study—more "talk".  More time spent in Bible study.  More time spent in prayer & meditation.  More time spent in adult study groups learning how to share our faith.  Amen.