A Waste of Faith
By Andy Pope
The other day, I was sitting on a bench by a trail where I go running, enjoying the beautiful sunset.
Suddenly, a beautiful woman approached me. She said she had just been praying, and told me the Lord had told her to come my way.
This was almost too good, I thought. You may call me weird, but I’m one of those people who enjoys conversations that involve Christianity and the Lord. (The “beautiful woman” factor cannot be discounted, either.)
So I said, “That’s great! I’m a believer, and I love the Lord. What did He say you should say to me?”
“You do realize,” she began, “that the virus is very small, and that the mask cannot possibly provide adequate protection one way or another, when it comes to the virus.”
My heart sank. Part of the reason I had escaped to a spot where I could enjoy the sunset was because I was getting tired of hearing all about the masks, and the vaccines. I just wanted a break from those tedious topics. I had felt I was often getting into pointless arguments on those themes, in which no one changed anyone’s mind. All we seemed to be doing was to deprive ourselves of the many more beautiful topics of conversation to be found.
Evidently however, the Lord had other ideas. I was not yet free to fully escape the topical debates of the day.
What saddens me more, however, is that I’m old enough to remember an era when, if a Christian approached me, all they wanted to talk about was the Lord. In fact, politics would not have entered into the conversation at all. There would have been no sense that they were right-wing, left-wing, or anywhere in between. They weren’t coming from politics. They were coming from Jesus.
So how did this all begin? And what does the Bible have to say about all this?
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters – Romans 14:1.
Interesting, the implied correlation between a weak faith and a desire to quarrel on debatable topics. I wonder if weakness of faith is at the root of the many arguments between believers over the centuries.
Some believers, for example, are Calvinists. Others, adhering to an opposing philosophy, are Arminians. How often have I heard Calvinists and Arminians arguing with each other?
How often have I heard a Calvinist “convert” an Arminian into a Calvinist? Or vice-versa?
Would a person of strong faith persist in engaging in such discussions, if they were clearly going nowhere? Probably not. It would seem, for lack of a better expression, a waste of faith.
“But reject foolish and ignorant speculation, for you know that it breeds quarreling. And a servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and forbearing – 2 Timothy 2:23-25
Remembering those verses, I tried to apply them to our conversation. As a result, I think I did a pretty good job of keeping my cool and remaining polite. Then the sun set further, and we parted ways.
But I continued to be disturbed throughout the evening. Few things can be more unsettling than being drawn into an unwanted argument while trying to enjoy a sunset.
By and by, I thought of another Scripture:
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on You, because they trust in you – Isaiah 26:3.
It bothered me that I was not at peace. In fact, there was much less peace in my spirit than there had been before I got into yet another annoying discussion about the very topic I had been trying to escape.
However, as I processed the event, two things came to mind.
First, God often has other ideas for us than the ones we are engaging. Just because I don’t enjoy discussions I find annoying or pointless, doesn’t mean all other parties have the same view of the discussion. How do I know that this woman might not have been very blessed by the discussion? After all, we parted on good terms, exchanged names, and went our ways peaceably. For the moment, we were “agreeing to disagree.”
Secondly, it sparked an interesting theme for a column. After all, I wrote one, didn’t I?
To the point, why are our churches breeding people to engage in contentious controversy, rather than getting them to learn how to live their lives peaceably on a daily basis, moment-by-moment turning to Christ? Are Scriptures like the ones I’ve quoted no longer emphasized?
Why is the emphasis no longer on how we can go about living peaceable, quiet lives, loving our neighbors, and doing good towards others?
While I am no expert on any other religion, I would think this would be a common thread uniting all. The primary purpose of any spiritual practice is not to persuade others to adhere to our own practice. The primary purpose of a spiritual practice is to teach us how we are to live our own lives.
If we grasp this truth fully, if we apply it daily and consistently to our lives, then a wondrous irony will arise. People actually will become interested in our practice.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you. But respond with gentleness and respect – 2 Peter 15b-16a.
Every now and then, someone asks me why I seem so happy. And every now and then, I am able to tell them that I am happy because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
For me, that moment is more powerful than all the arguing in the world.
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Andy Pope is a freelance writer currently residing in Moscow, Idaho, where he is a member of Moscow First Presbyterian Church. His work on social justice has appeared in Classism Exposed in Boston, Berkeleyside in Berkeley, California, and also in the Bay Area newspaper Street Spirit, where his regular column, Homeless No More, encourages those making the transition from homelessness to housing. An accomplished pianist and lifelong musical theatre person, Andy is also the author of “Eden in Babylon,” a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.