We live in a world where it is easy to get into a routine. Now don’t get me wrong, a routine can be a very good thing! I have recently found myself in a season of life where I have no routine and I long for consistency. The problem that lies with having a routine is that we can easily put our lives on auto-pilot and not pay attention to the world around us.
Today I was driving a familiar route and was thinking about things other than the road when I realized that I had driven through an intersection without looking up at the light to affirm that it was green; I was simply following the car in front of me. I then began to ponder how we often do that in our lives and in our faith? How often do we just follow the flow of traffic?
We do this in various ways from picking a side on a controversial headline to even deep theological issues. I can remember being a teenager in the small rural church in West TN where I grew up. One Sunday morning, a boy in our youth group invited a friend to church and this friend looked different than the rest of our white American congregation. I can’t remember how it happened but I remember this guest being asked to leave because of the color of his skin.
I clearly remember going home just mortified and talking with my mom about how I didn’t feel that was right. She explained to me that the person that asked this visitor to leave was a part of the church decades ago when the bylaws of the church were written in a way to establish segregation in our church. She explained that if the church wished to welcome guests of other races and nationalities, the bylaws of the church would need to be re-written or those members that clearly remember being a part of the church when those rules were established would continue to respond in that way. Even though my mom gave a clear explanation, it still didn’t settle well with me but there were many youth who received the same explanation from their families and never questioned it.
This was a defining moment in my faith journey where I knew that my view on the world and on the church was different. My view on the world and on the church couldn’t be defined by church bylaws written during a time where whites and blacks were forced apart by a society filled with hate. My views on the world and the church were different from my family and I was scared for what that meant. I had always trusted their opinion as truth without question. What does that mean in regards to honoring my father and mother if my view on Christian issues is different from theirs?
Just as we have to think for ourselves and not stand in the shadow of our parents’ and grandparents’ views and opinions, we also can’t stand in the shadow of their salvation accepting it as our own. It is very common among all parts of the world to claim a religion based upon the beliefs of their family rather than thinking for yourself. It is no different among Christian circles. We buy nice clothes and join our parents/grandparents for church on Easter/Christmas. We may even join them on a regular basis to appease them or check off some hypothetical “holy” checklist.
Faith in Christ isn’t just a one time decision, one time walk down an aisle or even a one time ceremonial dunking/sprinkling/confirmation as a child. That’s the beginning for many but it is a daily decision to be obedient to Christ. No one can make that decision for you. You can’t just show up at your grandma’s church, stop on pass & go and her hand you a “Get out of Hell Free” card. Your salvation and your eternal life is contingent on your individual decision to follow Jesus Christ no matter where your family’s faith may lie.
My grandmother was a saint of a woman who went to be with the Lord about 9 months ago. She was the most dedicated servant of the Lord I have ever known. Sunday School teacher, committee chair, sang in the choir at FBC Bells, TN for over 60 years!! She prayed for our family and prayed for others more than anyone. I would come home from college and visit with her and update her on my life and she would be so excited and say, “Oh I have been praying for that!” She forgave the unforgivable, loved the unloveable. She was faithful to the Lord and to her family and if her faith alone could have saved us all, there would have been no reason for her hours of prayers for us to each come to our own faith in Christ. Her salvation was her own and when the Lord called her home, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind where she would spend her eternity but in the presence of the God she so faithfully served for all of her days.
My prayer is that we’ll open our eyes. That we’ll no longer cruise on auto-pilot. That we would make up our own minds. That we would think for ourselves and not just trust the opinions of our Pastor, Religious Leaders, Parents and friends. That we would confirm within ourselves that our faith in Christ is our own and is not based on the faith of others. That we would examine our hearts each day, repenting of our sin, turning from that sin and faithfully following Christ with our individual lives. That we would fully grasp that our salvation is not bound by our church attendance or good works but only by His grace and by His wounds are we healed.