Friday, August 16, 2019

Setting the bar too low. . .

For some time now the tendency among Christians has been to make the faith easier -- easier to understand, easier to accept, easier to follow, easier to worship, and easier to believe.  We have, to use the words of one author, dumbed down the faith to the point where nearly everything is a negotiable.  You do not have to believe the Scriptures but can pick and choose from them what you find believable, acceptable, and meaningful (like a trip down the buffet line).  So the Word has only the authority we would grant to it and the creed only what we choose to really believe.  You do not have to attend worship all that often and even when you do attend, you can pick and   to find a worship service that fits you (musical style, liturgical or not, and level of ritual).  You do not have to follow any rules but can embrace whatever kind of piety you find meaningful (or none at all).  Ultimately what matters is that you are happy with whatever you find meaningful.

Then we wonder why it is that youth are falling away in droves, why congregations are growing smaller, why mega churches seem more to pass around people rather than attract non-Christians, why piety no longer flows from what is believed but from what people find easy and tolerable.  Why, indeed!  I read not long ago a rather pithy saying.  “If you set the bar low, a boy will crawl underneath it—but if you set the bar high, he will leap over it.”  I wrote it down in a book of things I have read but did not write down who wrote it or where I read it.  So I cannot steal and say it was mine but I can use it because I think it is true.

The lower we set the bar of belief, the less people will believe..  The more we cater to people's preferences for worship, the more preferences there will be and the quicker people will cycle through them like fads of fashion, and the easier we try to make the discipline or piety of the faith, the less discipline and the lazier the devotion will be.  The Millenials and those who follow them have certainly grown tired of a faith that is easy and found it not worth even the passing effort to believe and live out.  Wait to find the right moment when a child will choose to or want to go to church instead of being dragged there by a parent and you await a day that will probably never come.  It is not our nature to strive for that which is easy but to seek that which is even easier.  Yet the truth is that when we are confronted with a mountain, we will usually find a way to climb it.

I am here to plead for an end to a lazy and easy Christianity which asks nothing of the believer, not even belief.  I am ready to forego an easy faith that expects nothing of me but from which we demand everything --- and I think others are at the same point.  It is time for us to raise the bar, to remember it is not the broad boulevard of which Jesus speaks but the narrow gate.  It is time for us to expect people to be informed in the faith, to know the Word of God, to be captive to that Word, to believe the words of the creed they confess, and to worship that which is worthy of being worshiped. 

No I am not suggesting that we put artificial barriers before those who would enter the House of God but I am saying that we must not make the faith cheap and easy -- less than what Jesus Himself says to those who would follow Him.  “If you set the bar low, a boy will crawl underneath it—but if you set the bar high, he will leap over it.”  For too long Christians have allowed people to pick and choose doctrine, to sift through the Scriptures to find what they want to hear and believe, to be passive instead of faithful, and to make piety optional.  Now is the time for us to speak the words of Jesus.  Deny yourself.  Take up your cross.  Follow Me.  No, such works cannot purchase salvation but these works flow from faith and give evidence to those around us that we believe.  No, piety is not some  rigid straight jacket but it is the clothing of faith by which we demonstrate to God and to the world that we are His and that we live under Him in His Kingdom now and forever.  Worship is not entertainment and  neither are we to find worship that fits us but to worship where God is in His Word and Sacraments.  The life we live is not our own but His for we were bought with a price and set apart to be His and to be holy as He is holy.  Our life with God is not a series of minimums but the striving after all that God has done, given, and set before us as the direction and goal of our lives..

1 comment:

Pastor Bill Cornelius said...