The past two weeks have been enlightening for me. As a counselor at a two week music camp--one week for junior high, one week for senior high--I was thrown into a group of people far different from the largely Christian group I am blessed to be with most of the time. My fellow counselors were mainly college upperclassmen or older, and although not exclusively, most were interested in music and music education. All were amiable, easy to work with, and generally pleasant people. However, they also were committed to secularism, held contrasting views to mine, and the standard jokes were sexual and crude in nature. Christianity was definitely not a priority, even among those who claimed nominal Catholicism/Protestantism.
I do not intend to make this a confession, or to detail all my faults. However, I was bothered profoundly throughout the week by aspects of my behavior throughout the week, and I want to highlight those tendencies many people may relate to, as shown by my recent salient experiences. Even as I write this, the gospel uplifts me, and I know that Jesus' work on my behalf covers my failures, and through him, I'll continue on my halting way toward sanctification.
Foremost of what I noticed is how little Christianity pervades my conversations with nonbelievers. I'm not talking about beating nonbelievers over the head with my Christianity, but I was dismayed at how little my conversations were influenced by what I claim as the center of my existence. The influence of the gospel in my life ought to be striking and notable. How can I talk about my past without mentioning God's provision for me? How can I talk about my future without mentioning my trust in God? How can I respond to any sort of deep questioning without that response being permeated by that which is deepest in me? Is it possible to wrench from every answer the substance that makes me who I am?
As demonstrated by these last two weeks, it certainly seems possible. This raises the niggling question: do I believe whole-heartedly what I confess at church? Or, stripped of an encouraging environment, is my faith proved to be tepid and ineffective? I guess, primarily, the question is how strongly I actually believe what I say I do. For example, I say that without Christ a soul is doomed forever, but when given opportunities to speak with these needy souls, I readily shelve Christianity as a second-tier topic. Because I'm afraid of controversy, I take steps to avoid discussions of the meaning of life, of virtue, of meaningful things--instead favoring the weather, music, and various other delightfully pointless topics.
About these things my conscience bothers me. As options for my future arise, I have pondered both seminary and missions. In these areas, the gospel is central to all one does, and the focus of all one's activities, and the last two weeks showed me how easy it is to lose sight of goal. I trust that this experience was appropriately timed and will accomplish God's purposes, bringing about a preparation for the tasks God eventually will give me. In the meantime, through pondering my sadly empty conversations, a wonderful song entitled "Help my unbelief" has attained a new poignancy for me. I pray that He will help mine. May I believe strongly and deeply what I confess so that its influence extends to all I do, coloring my conversations, prompting my actions.
Let us remember that, as Christians, we are not to fit into the culture around us. We are a counter-culture, the Kingdom of God, and the love of Christ ought to transform our attitudes so that we stand out. We have the truth, and should let reality be known. Being different, being known as a Christian, and standing for the gospel are necessary parts of the Christian life.
Onward Christian soldiers go.
PS-The church is a vital part of a vibrant faith.