Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An inconvenient Truth...

...to borrow a phrase by Al Gore. I'm no theologian. But recently, I've had reason to pause and think about the whole concept of faith and what it means to me.

The bible says it's hard for the rich man to enter kingdom of heaven because he is so focused on his material wealth that he doesn't feel that he needs God. Through my own experiences, I've discovered that there is another group of people who is resistant to God. These are the intellects - the ones who rely on their own intellectual prowess to rationalise behaviour and thought, so they tend to scoff religion as an emotional crutch devised for the simple-minded or the weak.

The problem I find is that religious arguments sometimes go in circles. I understand why some non-believers roll their eyes when Christians shout "hallelujah!" for blessings that come their way and spout "it's God's will" when calamity strikes. It appears more rationalisation than rational.

When believers speak to non-believers about the gospel, the focus tends to be on God's love and the redemption of sin. Which is perfectly appropriate because the entire gospel revolves around love and I'm not taking anything away from the multitude of people who have come to know God through this.

However, for a particular group of intellectuals, this argument as a starting point is not satisfactory because they are not convinced that God (or at least our God) is real to begin with. I say this because I'm very much one of those people who over-analyse everything and value logic. If I weren't a Christian in the first place, that viewpoint would probably be close to mine.

So why am I a Christian then? To me, it all boils down to one thing: Truth. (With a capital T). I didn't grow up in a Christian household but I have encountered God in a very real and personal way. No, He didn't exactly tap me on the shoulder or speak to me in a booming voice but I've experienced first-hand several significant events where the only plausible explanation is divine intervention. And remember, I'm a cynic at heart.

Let me give an analogy: One day, you step on your scale and you see with horror that the needle points to 5kg heavier than when you were last on it. You try on your fat jeans and they're tight. You uncomfortably remember that you had skipped gym workouts for the past 2 months. All these events point to one truth - that you have put on weight, just as many events in our lives point to God's existence. But like many people in denial, we sometimes dismiss them, pointing to other possible explanations: "The scale is faulty." "It's only water retention." "My jeans shrunk in the wash."

The thing is, we can always make excuses for not believing even when the truth is staring us in the face. I suspect it's because faith can be rather inconvenient. Faith means we have to give up our independence and surrender completely to God. Faith means there is a code of conduct God expects us to abide by. Faith means servitude, humility, love, putting others before self - all the values that are in total opposite to the modern world's. So in the end, it really is simpler just to deny that God exists.

The reason why so many people come to know Christ in times of adversity is not because of weakness but because hearts tend to be more open when they are troubled. Why consider the possibility of God when you don't need Him? I believe if the intellects of this world will quieten their hearts, be open to the possibility that God is real and let God speak to them, they will see that the truth cannot be denied. And once we accept this premise, we have to accept all that comes with it. It's only logical.

Religion is not like shopping for a car, you don’t choose the one that best matches your lifestyle or suits your needs. Using this as a basis for believing is precarious because the faith has no roots. The minute the religion stops doing what you want, you will be tempted to renounce it, just as you would give up a non-functioning car. God is not Santa Claus or a fairy godfather. He’s not there just to grant us our earthly wishes. He never promised that Christians will not undergo hardship or suffering.

Being a Christian is about accepting truth. Even though you may hate the idea of having put on weight, denying it doesn't change the truth. So then, what next? We let Him lead the way, to grow in our relationship with Him and to empower us to become blessings to others. Of course it's not easy. In fact, sometimes I think the fastest way to become disillusioned is to look at the behaviour of Christians! Some at least. But the beauty of the Christian faith is that God is forgiving, God is patient.

We often describe God as the Father but we don't often ponder about what it means. Imagine the most loving, perfect parent and you have described God. God loves us regardless, just as we love our kids even when they’re at their naughtiest. He doesn’t love based on how much we do (although that’s a great way of showing our love for Him), He just does... unconditionally. This means that God ultimately has our well-being in mind, even if it entails putting us through difficult times. In fact, a friend just pointed this verse out to me:
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" - Jeremiah 29:11
Isn't that reassuring? If I have to accept God as Truth, then I'm very glad I have one who loves me more than I can imagine.

8 comments:

elan said...

Thank you Mon once again for putting into words what was in my head!
I especially like the fat jeans analogy. You have made it so clear and simple.

Like you, I was also a cynic, even after being baptised. However, once I started to open my heart and mind to His presence I have had so many occasions when He almost literally did tap me on the shoulder or even shout in my ear when I least expected it that I could no longer deny His existence.

Recently, this included a new patient who told me later that she had prayed and was TOLD by God to come and see me the night before for something mild (to me, not her, that's why she prayed) and unrelated all the way from the Yishun to Holland Road.
However, because I usually ask patient new patients about breast cancer risks and mammograms she ended up having one and discovering a small lump in her breast that was very treatable. While seeing her, I could literally feel shivers down my spine and His very real presence.
let me make it clear that is not how my consults usually go though!

monlim said...

Elan: Thanks for sharing, what an amazing account! It's these incidences that boost our faith especially during "lull" times.

I've always wondered if doctors in particular are more open to God despite being intellects because it's hard to see the intricacies of the human body and not believe that it was created by a supreme being.

Penny said...

Thank you for writing this post, Monica! Wish there was a function to allow readers to like this post, ala facebook style. Hehehe...

Penny

monlim said...

:D

Veronica_L said...

Very enlightening post. It's a very creative point of view on the subject. I love it. Christianity is not just about wearing a cross and praying, it's about truly believing and having faith in God!

Jo said...

Your post was a reminder of my faith and how prominently it features in my life & the lives of my family.

In my view Christianity is a living faith ... though a lot of us are guilty of being pew warmer Sunday christians ! On top of that, many churches have become more of a social meeting place than a place of worship!

I think in the hustle n bustle of everyday life it is so easy to get caught up in the material things and achievements of this world and more often than not, I am guilty of this.

In our choice of school for our girls, I decided not to send them to my old school ( a v good girls' sch) and opted for a methodist school instead, which required us to relocate. We did it in faith and have no regrets. We could have chosen many other good girls' schools as well in the vicinity but I believe that a good Christian school environment makes a crucial difference.

To quote a Puritan saying : "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." And to me, that should be our purpose in life.

Jo

Anonymous said...

To me, Christianity is not a religion or a faith but a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with God, my creator.

That makes a big difference in why I want to go to church . It is not out of obligations but to worship Him and to please Him. It also makes me want to sit at His feet each day, to read HIs Word, meditate on it and to pray to HIm. Most importantly, to abide in Christ Jesus and to live in God's fullness.In short, to enjoy His presence and love.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. though i declare to everybody that I am an aethist, I still pray to God sometimes.. It is nice to know that there are many sincere nice Christians here, not those who bent on converting you to become Christians.

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