Sunday, June 17, 2012

In God We Trust

The phrase--vision statement?-- dedication?--vow?--I employed to title this week's post is found on our currency.  Some in our society would like to see it go because they see religion as the opiate of  human culture, and therefore a hindrance to any possible move towards true peace and human perfection.  Others are fighting to keep it for the opposite reason that such homage will keep our country from straying and ultimately collapsing.  I wonder, though, how many of us really believe that simple vow.  I suspect if it were really fully embraced, the first group would be silenced--perhaps not convinced, but silenced--and the second group wouldn't fret about it because they would be too busy living what it claims, so its truth would be self-evident.

In the first letter bearing his name, the apostle John wrote a deceptively simple admonition (it's clear to me that John's writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit by virtue of the depth of truth to be discovered in its simple language):

"Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.  If a person continues to love the world, the love of the Father is not in that person.  Because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the obsessive longing of the eyes, and the self-confident pride of life, are not of the Father, but flow out of the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desire, but the one doing the will of God remains forever." [I John 2:15-17] [my translation]

Many who have read these verses take them as a mandate to isolate themselves from this world; thus many have lapsed into various forms of asceticism, thinking that in order to love God we must deny the physical and embrace only the spiritual.  This dualism of flesh=bad, spirit =good is pagan, or gnostic but definitely not Biblical, and definitely not John's intent; God is interested in the restoration of both the physical and spiritual worlds without the expense of one for the other; indeed, the restoration of one requires the restoration of the other--the physical and spiritual realms are inseparable in God's kingdom.  No, John is not teaching dualism here, but the central need for humans to trust God.

This is a political year, and with all that's coming down both in America and beyond, the political debate has never been more fierce (hyperbole, of course).  I cannot tell you how many people are putting their faith in the person who shall lead the nation, or that person's philosophical underpinnings--even those who profess the name of Christ--for the salvation of the country.  We find, then, in this great political arena our first example of love of the world which John was teaching against.

Certainly, we should utilize our constitutional rights to try to keep a light shining on a dark world; but we delude ourselves if we really believe truth will prevail through one person or that person's party.  Personally, I think it goes beyond delusion for most, and has degraded into a lethargy.  We would much prefer going about our business while someone else carries the moral banner for us.  This, too, is love of the world, because if we truly loved God, we would trust Him by tirelessly working for His kingdom in each of our spheres of influence--either small or large.  What would society look like if every professing Christian lived 'In God We Trust'?

Lately, I have spent a lot of time reading other people's blogs--particularly those from the big names of the Christian world.  Some of it has been enlightening and good food for faith; other parts have been down-right depressing.  The need to answer every question thrown at them like the gauntlet of old consume many on these blog threads.  Even though many of these folks would deny it, their peroccupation with these questions has caused them to drift away from the central truth of loving God first and has engaged them in an endless battle over words and minutia to the horrid yet expected outcome of not loving each other. The lie by which many operate is that we can convert the cynic by answering all of his intellectual complaints; but the cynic delights in keeping us prisoner to a never-ending treadmill of speculation; no matter how effectively we might answer a given question, another one is sure to come. As with all of us, the cynics need to meet Jesus; they need to trust Him, not their intellect.  And the first place they will meet Him will be us who profess His name, which means we place the purposes of His kingdom before everthing else.  If they see us putting our trust in reason, how can we expect them to do otherwise; for trusting in our own wisdom is to love the world.

Finally, trusting in our resources is also loving the world.  Yes, we need to be good stewards of our possessions because God has given them to us in order to bear fruit for His kingdom; this is what we should understand whenever we complete a prayer--particularly of thanksgiving--with 'in your name we pray'.  This should also inform us that our security is not in our wealth but in God alone.  Consequently, we should never hold onto material possessions too tightly, but trust God to keep us even should we give it all up.  Indeed, if every Christian trusted God in this way by distributing his/her wealth freely as the need arises, we would see less of a call from the world for a political system to force a socalism on society, and therefore risk all the pain of evil that inevitably comes at the heels of such centralized power because the latter doesn't trust God either.

Do not misunderstand me.  One of the core consequences of the fall of humankind is poverty; consequently, the first fruit God calls us to bear for His kingdom--all through the Bible, both the OT and the NT--is to right the disorder of poverty.  However, we will never bring order to poverty, or any other injustice wrought by the fall, through human institutions or philosophies--regardless--but only by acting from a pure trust in God alone.

When John tells us to not love the world, he means not to put our trust in the things of the world.  Instead of trusting in our politicians and human institutions, instead of trusting in human intellect and wisdom, instead of trusting in wealth in all its embodiments, we need to trust God first and last.  Otherwise, John tells us, the love of the Father is not in us--that is, we neither love God, nor is His love the state of our being: the power both guiding and motivating us.  You see, my dear readers, we cannot say we love God first unless we trust Him above all else; because the only way we truly love God is by obeying Him.