Piety vs. Total Engagement in God

Jan 13, 2020

I was born nine months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and our entry into World War II. I can vaguely remember the celebrations when the war ended in 1945. That’s my first memory. So I grew up in the post-war era, coming of age in the early 1960’s. My parents were dedicated Christians; we attended church every Sunday without fail. But I don’t ever remember a single conversation about Jesus or God or Christianity or what we believed.


In the late 1940‘s and 50’s our nation was determined to get back to a new and better normal and to put all the suffering of the war behind us. It was an era of conformity and great piety. It was all about looking good, no matter the state of our hearts or our emotions which probably belied all the “good works” we were trying to do. There was no conversation about how we lived the life following Jesus, we were just to believe in Him, his death on the cross and His resurrection, that He died for our sins and that we’d better appreciate that.


I learned above all to be poised in any situation. I learned to cover my true reactions and to just go along with the crowd. I learned to live on the surface of my life without any instruction as to how to realize my full potential as a human being; I did not even know that there was a deeper, truer self to be accessed.


Maybe that lack is the reason why it matters so much to me to examine not just the surface stuff in me and others, but what also goes on in the unconscious that needs to be healed and what the content of the heart and soul is. I think that integrity—living from the inside out as an integrated whole person is the way to follow Jesus. There’s a metaphor that expresses this for me. It’s the ocean. On the ocean surface occurs most of the activity that goes on in the ocean—waves, choppiness, storms, etc. That top layer of the ocean represents the surface of our lives where the world’s ways rule. Much deeper down are long, slow currents that seemingly go on forever. It’s when we identify with these deeper currents of our lives that we realize our full created potential—the way God created us to be.


Following Jesus will lead us to our true selves as He highlights and heals the walls we have built out of guilt and shame, the inconsistencies in how we live, the thinking that we need to let go of, all in the pursuit of the person God created us to be. The real and true person that is me or you. Not the one our parents envisioned. Not the one conditioned by the world and how it thinks we should be. Only the real and true version as conceived by God.


This real and true self is where repentance will lead us. We turn our backs on all that we learned from the world and attach ourselves to Jesus; we follow Him; we learn to live in the truth that He reveals to us. He lifts the burdens that the world, our families and schools put on us in favor of that real person with his/her own talents and gifts and weaknesses and strengths and all that we have learned from whatever pain and suffering we have endured. We take all that we are and lay ourselves totally on God’s altar, we give our lives to Him and we take up our cross and whatever God has given us and we follow Jesus wherever He would lead us.


This is not about what the church teaches or what your friends and family want for you. It is about listening deeply to the “still, small voice”,[1] the “gentle whisper”[2] of the Indwelling Spirit of God who shares with you all you need to know to live the life He envisions for you. In writing this I don’t want to take anything away from the church and all that it does in the world, but our primary relationship is not to our church, but to Christ Himself. It’s natural that we would join a church and express our lives through that institution, that we would gather with people who are like ourselves and hold similar beliefs, but in all that we do we are to be connected to God and to live in His presence, so that we might fulfill our very creation, the purpose for which God designed us.


Questions to ponder over the week:  Am I more attached to the church and its beliefs than I am to Christ? Am I tuned into God’s “still, small voice?” Is that what guides my life? Or is it the church or what others think? What would I need to change in myself to hear that “gentle whisper?” How do I deal with my own imperfections? Am I condemning or loving and forgiving?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who follow His “still, small voice,” who live in the world, but not of the world, who are dedicated followers of Christ.


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[1] 1 Kings 19:12 KJV

[2] Ibid NIV

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