Being Consistent (6 of 8)

Instinctively, we are drawn to what is considered socially normative. It is part of our anthropological intuition, creating in us a sense of belonging — a sense of security. So it doesn’t matter whether our cultural context is religious or irreligious, politically left or right, urban or rural – we are drawn into conformity with the subset culture we have chosen to identify . . . and we mistakenly assume that our personal consistency is somehow measured against our compliance with the prevailing ethos of that subset culture.

But well-behaved conformity to cognitively dissonant darkness can only create the illusion of being consistently in the light. As such conformity is, more often than not, nothing more than borrowed light filtered and opaque, a cultural distortion of light. In this way, cultural conformity masquerades as being virtuously consistent . . . but being consistently wrong is the likeliest outcome within such a paradigm.

Internally, when the head and the heart aren’t actively going a few rounds in the ring, they have taken to their corners under an uneasy cease fire, awaiting the next skirmish. This is where the actual battle for consistence takes place – where facts and feelings meet incongruently, vying for supremacy. And under the prevailing influence of modernity, we tend to assume that the cognitive will be far more reliably consistent than the loose cannon of the emotive – but once again this is an illusion . . . as if it were possible for the content of our thinking to be devoid of emotion.

imagesPhilosophically, the Christian faith embraces the concept that there are transcendent principles, by design, at work in the universe — therefore, having consistency in our life requires that we align ourselves with those principles. But here’s the thing, those principles were never meant to be understood in an intellectual vacuum apart from a relationship with God – that in fact it is our relationship with God that unlocks the continuity that exists between the principles, and brings proportion to their meaning.

So in regards to our desire to find consistency in both thought and deed, we must be careful to hold in abeyance the external and internal forms of predisposed conformity, which we’re inclined to blindly follow. Instead, choosing to hold every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), so that we might walk in the light as he is in the light (1 John 1:7), seeking first his kingdom (Matthew 6:33). Ever aware that it is the Holy Spirit at work in what we think, what we do, and what we desire, conforming us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

For it is in the worship of God where our intellect and emotion are brought into full harmony – as our minds begin to ponder the greatness of God present in the narrative of his word, our hearts can’t help but respond, as we are wooed by his ponderous love . . . so in the abandon that such love inspires we are overcome. This is a recalibration, ever pulling us back into balance, into the arms of the true lover of our souls – so that in His immutable presence we might find some measure of true consistency.

God is ever transforming us — ever making water into wine . . .


Being Relevant (5 of 8)

One of the most challenging things we face in life, is maintaining a healthy separation between what we need and what we want. For example, our innate need for affirmation and affection can often devolve into the reckless wanting found in a string of meaningless sexual encounters and addictions to pornography. Or our basic need for food, clothing, and shelter can metastasize into the wanting typical of greed and the self-involved avarice of consumerism. And our primal need to belong can get swept up in our wanting to fit in with cultural expectations until we negotiate away our principles and values – where individual conviction gives way to groupthink . . . the type of groupthink that ironically gets labeled “being relevant”.

Begging the question – “Being relevant to what?” At this point “being relevant” can be understood as either being relative to something in flux, or as being germane to something constant. And how we define “being relevant” can help give us insight on how best to distinguish need from want – because what we want at any given moment is a moving target, but what we actually need remains unchanged . . . even if we haven’t completely identified what we actually need.

Back when I was a youth minister, I would try to enlist adult volunteers, many of which assumed that they were unqualified because they didn’t imagine themselves as being relevant enough to high school culture. They erroneously thought that being up to date on the current jargon, fashion, and music would be required to bridge the gap of relevance – but that would have only made them relative to youth culture. But what was actually needed, was a willingness to love and listen to these teenagers as individuals, giving each of them the dignity of their significance – so that the group identity could be built on what was truly germane to the needs of these transitional years.

What-Counts-as-Relevant-Career-Experience-353x179Today, so many folks talk about the need for the Church to be relevant – and I couldn’t agree more . . . but again, there’s a need to define terms. Any juxtaposing of traditional with contemporary can only seek to measure relevance by indexing how relative to current cultural ethos our practices it can be. Which is inextricably predicated on the assumption, that the ever-shifting mores and values of a culture perpetually trying to figure out what it wants most, will be the best path for discovering what the culture actually needs . . . and the mission of the Church isn’t to offer the world what it wants, but to lovingly help it discover what it needs.

This isn’t to suggest in the least that traditionalism is somehow sacrosanct — because what has become traditional can quite often fail in its ability to address the real experienced needs of its practitioners. When church practices become disconnected from the meaning they once represented, they either need to be recognized as germane to our faith and reconnected to their original purpose, or they need to be abandoned altogether as only having been relative to a bygone day. But what is immutably central to Christianity is Christ and his ever-pursuing love and grace, ever-seeking to find us in our deepest need — in this regard His Church is always relevant . . . because he is always relevant.

. . . and our need for God’s guidance is always relevant.