Saturday, April 20, 2013

Meeting Challenges to Faith in a Changing World

In light of recent events, I found these statements and questions thought-provoking, 'Each day you and I make decisions that contribute to constructing one kind of world or another. Are we caught up in faddish worldviews? Or are we helping to build a new world characterized by the truths of the Bible and the message of Christ?"-Ralph Hawkins in his book "While I Was Praying," p. 12. I also saw an article describing the growth of Islam in America and noted that while there have been conversions, most growth is due to immigration. The challenge for us as Christians is to study the Bible and live our lives in faithful discipleship to Jesus in such a way that we will persuade others to follow him. I'm more concerned about the rise of secularism and agnosticism, which actually is a threat to both Islam and Christianity. As Christians, we can be more effective by speaking as informed followers of Jesus, knowing the Bible but also knowing the facts about the political situation and those who oppose the teaching of Christ. Some people share slanderous comments on social media sites without verifying them on a fact check site first. Other people make comments against the contents of the Quran when they have not read it. When it's discovered that either group's comments were based on a lie, they lose credibility. Because we all are emotional beings, we must also conduct a "fact check" on our own beliefs and feelings. Do we hold an opinion because we believe in Jesus as the Christ, or because we belong to a certain political party or espouse a particular ideology? Are we uncomfortable in a setting because something is morally or religiously wrong, or because the setting is unfamiliar and we do not understand its cultural background? We can defend our faith most constructively by addressing issues rather than attacking personalities. We can persuade others to follow Jesus more effectively by living like we believe his teachings. That requires us to study the Bible and to associate regularly with other believers (Translation: Go to church.). We can conduct business matters ethically and promptly. People should be able to say of us, "He (or she) speaks the truth and treats all fairly." Helping others and forgiving those who slight us will also mark us as followers of one who said of those who were executing him, "Forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Certainly, worldview, or how we think things work, affects the decisions we make. We have to realize as we share our faith that others may not share our worldview. However, some truths remain true whatever the context. I have lived most of my life in a middle-class American context. However I have lived at least six months in two other countries, one of which had a markedly different economic, cultural, and religious foundation. I met people who saw some issues much differently than I did because of those different foundations. But I discovered that some of those same people shared convictions with me on several topics. These Muslims believed in one God. They believed in the power of prayer and practiced it regularly. They practiced hospitality and treated me with respect because they saw me as a religious leader. They believed that eating a meal with someone and listening would build relationships. Writers of the New Testament also lived in a nation (the Roman Empire) that did not share their worldview. Missionaries adapted some practices as they traveled into different locations and spoke to different audiences. Paul ate with Gentiles in Antioch. He preached, quoting Greek philosophers in the public arena to Greeks and Hebrew scripture to Jews in synagogues. He preached, however, the same message to both: "Christ and him crucified." He maintained his own identity as a Jewish Christian as well. We live in a society which respects individuals freedom to practice their religious beliefs. We must practice ours faithfully if we are to build a better world and convert others to what we believe is true.

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