Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, 1 Samuel 1:21-2:11, Acts 1:15-26, Luke 20:19-26
When someone criticizes your faith or religious beliefs, what is your first reaction? What about challenges to other beliefs, like politics, music, or sports? Most of us instinctively want to defend our position. This isn’t by default a bad response, but it probably shouldn’t be our only response. Eager as we might be to “enlighten” the person who disagrees with us by exposing them to a torrent of fact, idea, and opinion, such a defensive reaction does not send a message of confidence. To the contrary, it often comes across as desperate, or even self-delusional.
This need to convince others – or maybe ourselves? – that we are right keeps Christian bookstores in business. Their shelves are stocked with volume after volume of apologetics ( defenses of and arguments for the Christian faith) supposedly meant to arm the well-meaning Christian against non-believers, especially smart ones who push (shudder) science. Careful study of these books on creationism, biblical inerrancy and gospel reliability reveals they are mostly meant to help Christians convince ourselves we haven’t backed the wrong high horse. Being knowledgeable about our faith, its tenets, and its history is a good thing – a scripturally sound one actually – but there’s a fine line between defending the faith and becoming defensive about it. If our faith balances on an intricate and delicate house of Bible flash cards atop brittle doctrine, its eventual fall is only ever one firmly slammed door away.
Listening to challenges and evidence with an open mind isn’t equal to admitting we are wrong; a firmly founded faith will withstand a little rough weather. If the scribes and priests in today’s passage from Luke had been willing to hear the criticisms Jesus gave in his parables, they might have appeared less foolish and actually learned something. When God speaks to us through others, it’s rarely to say “Keep on doing what you’re doing.”
Testimony is more effective as an invitation than a lecture or subpoena. Should we develop a coherent understanding of our beliefs? Certainly. Yet the foundation of faith and faith shared rests not on our own understanding, but God’s.
Comfort: Our love of God speaks volumes more than our explanations of God.
Challenge: When someone disagrees with you, listen first to understand, and respond only when the situation requires it.
Prayer: God, I love you with all my heart and all my mind. Amen.
Discussion: What’s something you believe that you can’t prove? Why do you believe it?
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