"I've been thinking"... In my family, when that is said, it usually means the one listening should run away. ;-) In this case, feel free to run or maybe do some of your own thinking after reading!
I struggle with many things wanting so many answers to be black and white. And, yet, so often the answers are far from black or white. Whether black, white, or gray, I pray I am careful not to bring judgement on myself while holding a judgmental measuring stick up to other people. Many believe the Bible tells Christians not to judge one another at all, citing Matthew 7:2-4ish. The problem with that thinking is that if you continue reading in verses 4 and 5 and throughout the New Testament, you will see that there is a time to hold a fellow Christian accountable. The instruction in verse 5 continues with "...first, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." There is a place for the removing of specks as long as you're in line with the Holy Spirit to do so. Our own sin in a certain area must be removed (often painfully) in order to help someone else in that same area. Galatians 6:1 says, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." In the Bible we are told, as Christians, to be discerning, to look out for bad fruit, to look out for sheep in wolf's clothing and also to be humble, allowing love to cover a multitude of sins.
Somewhere between running around thumping our Bibles over the heads of fellow Christians and ignoring or even being influenced by the complacency of sinfulness within our hearts is where we're supposed to live...
All of that is to preface the examples of worldly influence I want to share. Please know this is not me holding anyone personally accountable...it's more like pondering over sad mentality that has invaded our Christian homes and churches...
Let me add that I am a sinful mess and I need to be covered in God's grace daily. Not because I have some "freedom in Christ" that lets me sin because I know I'll be forgiven but because I am humbled by a HOLY God who is willing to look on me with love and bring me back into fellowship with Him when I first confess my sin and allow Him to work within the depths of my evil heart. I have freedom in Christ because I am set free from the bondage of sin which only happens when sin is acknowledged and repented of. Complacency about sin and ignoring sin are definitely not living the abundant life of freedom from sin Christ intends for us to live. Recently I have witnessed a breaking down of values and morals.
I see the hearts, sins and struggles of children being ignored. It.
takes. time. to invest in and tend to the heart of a child. It takes
time to encourage them to wrestle out and take a hold of their own
faith. It is a caring parent that addresses sin rather than ignoring
it. It takes tears, patience and lots of time. This is an area in
particular that I am weak in... I have "lots of time" with my kiddos but it takes a concerted, focused effort to shepherd the heart of a child.
I see people at church dressed like they are heading to a night club for
lunch... I do expect this at Walmart or in public in general but since
many that attend church claim to be Christians, that is the environment
where it bothers me the most. I mean, really, leggins are NOT pants!
Tight, short, skimpy, low-cut...all in the name of fashion... while I am not one to care about what particular colors or patterns are in for a season I do know that you can look cute, nice and modest all at the same time!
I see the evidence of families so focused on good money, good grades,
good jobs, good appearances, etc. that the American dream and the
comforts we've learned to expect have turned into entitlement and there
seems to be an understanding that Christian families should fit right
in. I mean, what's wrong with good money, good grades, good jobs,
etc...? Well, nothing individually. But as an idol...as something
chased and pursued not for the sake of the Kingdom but because that's
what we "should" do as Americans...now there's where we can run into
I see affairs flaunted.
I see families so busy. Not good busy. The I-feel-complete-when-my-plate-is-too-full busy.
Here's the soap box that might get me into trouble...I see Christian families encouraging their children to believe in something or someone that is not real. Santa is not coming to town. He's not making a list. And he doesn't know anything about our children's good or bad deeds because...wait for it...he's not real! Believe me when I tell you that I love and encourage imagination. We read and enjoy fiction books. We play "pretend" all the time. But...that is where the pretend stays... Most people wouldn't let their children believe that Narnia really exists any more than they would let them believe that ponies can fly or flowers can sing. Why, then, is it okay to tell children that Santa (or tooth fairy or easter bunny) is real? For fun? Really? There is only One who is omnipotent. Only One who is omniscient. Only One who is omnipresent. There is no one other than the One True God that can know everything about anyone. And I, for one, am thankful that God doesn't keep a naughty and nice list and treat me accordingly. Do I believe that most Christian parents are intending on putting Santa up on the level of God? No, of course not. That's not how the deceptiveness of worldly inflence works...it isn't obvious. Sin can always appear as fun, cute, innocent or pleasurable...that's how the father of lies masquerades. The other day we enjoyed being at Grandma's assisted living home when a group of students visited to carol for the residents. It was fun and most of the students enjoyed being there. The leader of the carolers mentioned his church and his faith which I thought was wonderful. He also mentioned the privilege of passing down an interest in music to our children which I also thought was wonderful. What saddened me was that every single song with the exception of "We wish you a Merry Christmas" sung by the children was about this season and its trappings. We, as Christians, claim that this time of year is really about Jesus...doesn't seem that way in our churches, in our checkbooks or credit card statements, or in our running around. And it certainly doesn't seem that way while having faith in a red suit and reindeer to make all our children's dreams come true. Blessings and gifts should foster gratefulness...I believe the source of that gratefulness should pass through the givers and on up to the Ultimate Giver. Glory is not given to God otherwise.
I did the Santa thing growing up. I do not believe that my parents were sinning against me. And, no Mom, I'm not scarred for life for thinking there was a Santa for a few years. I know that my parents were enjoying themselves and that Christmas was about family and fun at our house. It is, in fact, my parents that encouraged my independence, leading me to think about and question everything. I have family and dear friends that do Santa. I'm not about picketing lines for pictures with Santa...I have no problem with the legend or the stories or the songs. But they are just that. Stories and songs.
My words are not to personally call anyone out as doing something wrong...they are to inspire thinking. Do you know why you do the things you do? Do you know why you have the traditions you have? Are you blindly following the culture or do you truly believe in the way you think and act?
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (definitely something I need to work on myself!!!)