Recently, I had quite a few dealings with a man who was being very critical of Christianity. In truth he was mocking it. I made a comment about God and his replied asking about which god. Of course, he knows very well that I believe in the One True God. He then made some more disparaging remarks about how God was invented and other remarks about the Bible. He attempted to take parts of the Bible out of context to goad me more, but fortunately, despite being an “ordained minister” and claiming to have read the Bible, he just didn’t know enough to make it a very effective attack. The next day was Christmas and he and another person restarted the attack, this time displaying their vast historical knowledge about how December 25th was some sort of pagan holiday to some sun god and other nonsense. I realize the date is not exact. It’s not important, that is the day we celebrate Christ’s birth. We could celebrate it on July 5th and it wouldn’t reduce the importance. There would just be more fireworks.
Regardless, he was really getting under my skin. So, if you’ve followed me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that another man I know, a devout Catholic, gave me some great advice. He said, “Don’t let him steal your peace.” It was just that simple but it was so clear and so well timed. It can be truly amazing how God can send a perfect message out of the blue just when you need it. And I needed it. I really wanted to hit this guy. After this, I was much better, and as it turned out the guy stopped giving me a hard time.
I took a couple things away from this experience.
One, we need to let God be God. I think this is one of the most difficult things to grasp for me as a Christian. It’s not that I want to take God’s place, I just feel so burdened to succeed in so many aspects. This is especially true after I read James. Very much a works oriented book, James will really make you want to go do “works” for God. I suppose I could look at it from a military standpoint. As a private or even a corporal or sergeant, a person’s ability to do anything effective is limited. You may be able to keep your men alive, or succeed in a battle, but you aren’t going to win the entire war by yourself. It’s similar for us as Christians. We can do our part. We can pray, we can vote according to our faith, and we can spread the gospel. But that is what we can do. We can’t change the hearts of others. Only God can do that. I get so frustrated at times. I will be very honest, sometimes I get very tired of…well…losing. I want to win! I want the Ten Commandments to rest easily in the Supreme Court. I want prayer to be allowed in schools. I want to win. But I have to remember to let God be God and not get frustrated with the rest.
The other thing I took away is that God can use anyone to speak his word. And that just because someone doesn’t follow our exact flavor of Christianity doesn’t mean that they’re deceived and going to Hell. While the Catholic Church certainly has some flaws, I’m beginning to think that God is still working within that church. The Protestant churches have some pretty big flaws themselves, some (if you use the human scale of grading sins) are even more egregious than those which Protestants accuse the Catholics of. Of course, this isn’t endorsing a many roads to Heaven philosophy. There is only one way to Heaven and that is through Christ Jesus. But I really believe that God revealed to me that there are saved souls in all of Christianity, not just Baptists or Methodists or Evangelicals. It’s the belief in Christ that makes us Christian.
This brings to mind a final word. It’s heavily tangential, but it does relate. One of the criticisms I have heard of the Catholic church is that as time wore on and the rituals became more intricate and traditional, the Catholic faith began to believe in its rituals more than in the blood of Christ. I will tell you that the man who told me not to lose my peace does NOT believe his rituals will save him. He believes that Christ’s blood saved him. He defends his Catholic rituals as reminders of Christs sacrifice. More like tools to help guide him in his faith. In a conversation with my mother the topic of rituals and scripted prayers and things came up. The current Protestant church (particularly the Pentacostal movement) tends to reject heavily ritualized traditions. Scripted prayers and things of that nature aren’t heavily used and are more likely to be avoided. Still, those scripts can guide us and keep us on the path. They can prevent us from straying off, making prayers that are actually performances, or talking to ourselves more than to God. The danger is that they can become mechanical and empty. But in rejecting them completely, we run the risk of falling away from the core of our faith. It’s just an interesting thought. Quality assurance inspectors and pilots and many other fields use check lists to make sure that everything is done right. These are professionals that know their jobs inside and out. Yet they still use checklists to prevent them from straying or missing important steps. We could look at rituals and things like that as well.
It’s just a thought.