Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The Rains Came Down and the Floods Came Up
I remember when I was a kid we used to sing a song in children's church about the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. Ever since the days when I sang that song, I've thought of "the rock" as God's Word or Jesus and "the sand" as any worldly philosophy, self-centered lifestyle, or man-made religious system.
When I read this passage this morning, though, I was struck by the fact that "the rock" and "the sand" represent something more specific. The rock is not simply God's word, but God's word put into practice. Jesus tells this parable because he's surrounded by people who are paying him lip-service but aren't actually obeying him. His point seems to be that unless our faith is built upon a foundation of obedience, it will not withstand the challenges of life.
I have quite a few friends who's faith has not withstood those challenges. The floods of personal heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, and intellectual doubt have crashed over their homes with a vengeance and the destruction appears to be complete. They no longer call, "Lord, Lord."
I myself have felt the storms rage outside my house, and there have been times where I've wondered whether or not the structure will collapse. My primary tactic of fortification over the last seven years or so has been the acquisition of knowledge: that is, looking for rational, philosophical, and evidential reasons for belief in Christ. Reading. Learning. Thinking. Putting myself in situations where I have to interact with people who think differently than me.
I'm thankful for how I've grown over these last seven years. Acquisition of knowledge is good. But, Jesus' parable suggests that in the absence of obedience to Christ's teaching, neither my faith nor anyone else's can withstand the storm.
Who gets to "see" God? Is it the smartest people? The people who are exceptionally good at acquiring and analyzing information? The rigid empiricists?
Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)
If we are having trouble seeing God, I think the first thing we need to ask ourselves is: Are we pure of heart? Have we tried obedience? If we have not, then by Christ's own admission the house of our faith is built on sand. If the waves get high enough, we're going down.
Jesus said blessed are the merciful. Are we extending mercy? He said blessed are the peacemakers. Are we trying to create peace in our relationships and in the world at large? He said blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Are we longing to do what is right?
He also said, "anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment" and that we should "settle matters quickly with [our] adversaries..." Have we confessed and repented of the anger that exists in our hearts? Have we sought reconciliation with those we have wronged and openly forgiven those who have wronged us?
And then there's this one: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Have we made an effort not to entertain lustful thoughts? Have we rejected pornography and any media that leads us to view people as objects for personal gratification?
Have we loved our enemies? Prayed for those who hate us? Given to the needy?
And, if we've tried obedience and failed, have we tried asking for God's help? Have we experienced the grace that is offered in the wake of that failure?
I cannot speak for my friends who have lost faith. I want to be careful here: I am not trying to say that every person I know who's lost his or her faith is a porn-watching, anger-filled, selfish war-monger. Perhaps my friends tried obedience and found it an insufficient means of "seeing" God. I don't know, and I can't know. Only they know. What I do know, though, is that I still have quite a bit of work to do when it comes to living out Christ's commands wholeheartedly. And if what Christ is saying is true, it seems that my obedience (or lack thereof) has a direct impact on my perception of reality. Any of us who are even entertaining the idea of taking Christ seriously need to recognize this.