One of the reasons that I think Christians get such a bad rap, is that we only ever talk about our struggles behind closed doors – if we admit them at all! Perhaps if we admitted our struggles to those outside of Churches – especially the struggles with ego and learning to truly love, we would find that others were more accepting when we tried to share our journey with them!
But, if your upbringing in the church was anything like mine – God forbid that we admit to others that we have doubts about faith, God and “salvation”. You parrot off that you are sharing God’s love with the world, as you Bible-bash them into salvation.
The recent articles and criticisms, for example, of Marty Sampson “renouncing the faith”, strike me as exactly why so many people reject Christianity overall. How many others are in the same place as Marty – but because of peer pressure are continuing to go through the motions, without having an authentic faith?
Fear of being judged by their “peers”, questioned or cast out!
Unfortunately, the culture in most churches eschews any questioning or doubting of faith. My experience has been that churches prefer compliant religiosity than actual spiritual experience!
But for anyone on the outside, looking in, this simply looks like inauthenticity!
Because, anyone on the outside, no matter what belief system they have or may have had, has had doubts!
I’m one of those that has walked away because of doubts, and then found a new path of faith.
So much so, that I now do not actually call myself “Christian”. Because while I believe that I am called to follow Jesus’ example and to develop Christ consciousness for myself, I no longer wish in any way to be associated with the organised religion that goes by the name of Christianity.
I don’t want to be part of a movement that spends more time and money protecting the reputation of “the church” than it does in overturning tables and doing justice!
While I may come back regularly to the Bible for insight and inspiration, I now firmly believe that the Bible simply shows the way to God, but it does not in any way replace my own knowing, doubts and acknowledgement of the Divine. If I am to have a relationship with Spirit – that is for me to build with Spirit. The Bible may give me insight and inspirtion – but in the end, it must lead me to the Divine – rather than replacing the Divine.
And I find that relationship in the Silence – in listening to the still, small voice. It is that still, small voice, that I hear ever within me, that challenges me continually to step up and become the very best version of myself! That is where I find transformation, strength and power.
Authenticity allows me to explore my purpose – who I am becoming – not just who I was or even who I am right now (this is just one point in my life journey).
Listening to my calling & purpose:
One of the beautiful things about the Bible is that we find so many different stories about so many different people.
Flawed, imperfect and some even talented!
And yet, simply human.
All called – given a purpose and mission – specific to them and their abilities. Flaws and all. But even given the tools to get over themselves.
If we look at the mention of the gifts of Spirit (1 Corinthians 12) – we see that the Spirit gives to different people different gifts, such as words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, performing miracles, prophecy, different kinds of tongues (languages) and interpretation of languages to others.
This chapter of 1 Corinthians finishes with:
28 In the church, God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues. … 31 Use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts. And I’m going to show you an even better way.I Corinthians 12 (CEB)
What is this better way that is promised?
We don’t find out in Chapter 12 – but rather in Chapter 13 (because, well, the Bible wasn’t ACTUALLY written with Chapters and verses – those were added in many years later so that people could use them as references):
1 If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. 3 If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.1 Corinthians 13 (CEB)
The better way – Compassion!
Everyone is called to this way – irrespective of what gifts they have and what ambitions they might have for the “greater gifts”.
So – what is this authenticity of love and compassion that everyone is called to be?
4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, 5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.I Corinthians 13
What love is:
- Rejoicing in truth
- Bears all things
- Never ends
What love is not:
- keeping a record of wrongs
Robert McKenna points out three ironies of authenticity in his book “Dying to Lead“:
- The more you want to be seen as genuine, the less genuine you become
- The more you tell people that you’re a good person, the less they’ll believe you
- If you want to know how humble I am, just ask me
The reality is like James says “what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it?”
James isn’t talking about praying for someone or preaching at someone. He is talking about love in action!
Show me that you have been transformed by the renewing of your mind!
That you really are a new person. Not because of your outward acts of piety – but because I can truly sense God within you!
A Spiritual life
If the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control – and “You will know them by their fruit” – it should be pretty easy to identified the Spirit-filled Christians. They are all the people that are full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Don’t get me wrong – I know some amazing Spirit-filled Christians that these words would describe in their everyday life. But I also know some Buddhists, some Bahai, some Muslims and Jews and even some atheists that I would say are described perfectly by these words. They are loving, joyful and have deep inner peace. You can count on them to be patient, kind, and good to others. Internally, they come from a place of faith, gentleness, and self-control.
If you don’t like this litmus test – let’s go with the “Golden Rule” as summarised by Jesus in Matthew: “You must love your neighbour as you love yourself“.
But, once again, we come back to love & compassion. Love, which is patient, kind, rejoicing in truth, bearing-believing-hoping-enduring all things, and never-ending. Love, which is not arrogant, boastful, rude, and self-seeking!
I started off by saying that I was looking for authentic Christianity – those who are willing to admit where they are at. To a large extent, I am looking for more emotional and spiritual maturity from Christians!
Because, if I am honest, what really bothers me is the lack of emotional intelligence that I witness in Christian circles. Christians who are unable to have crucial conversations without emotional violence or aggression.
I struggle with the pat response “just pray about it“.As if God were some fairy Godmother with a magic wand that does all the work for you.
I totally believe that there is a spiritual aspect to all change. I also believe in miraculous healings.
But there is also an aspect of 100% responsibility for your personal choices and actions. If nothing changes – then nothing will change. If the only thing you are doing differently is praying, without moving your feet – how do you expect the miracle?
I want to see Christians 100% invested in their spiritual transformations by the renewing of their minds.
Not because they have memorised the most Bible verses, but because they have understood and rewritten their neural pathways – rebuilt their mental habits, quietened the chatter of their monkey mind, and begun to listen to the still, small voice within the silence!
I want to know that they have begun to understand that prayer is not a one-way street, where they pour out all of their problems, upload them onto the “God server”, and then disconnect. But rather, that they wait for the download of the answer and response! And then put that answer into action in their own lives.
The authenticity that I am looking for in my life is one of total alignment:
- emotions & feelings
It is that place where mind-body-spirit are fully conscious of Spirit within – and I hope, one day, that this is what others will see when they interact with me.