I’ve been thinking about the ideas that we profess about faith and discipleship, about virtue and morality, about what’s truly important. How do these ideas actually translate to reality in our life experiences and our conduct?
I do not quite remember where I heard or read this, but it has been said that there are people who tend to be more in love with the ideas that they declare than with the reality that those ideas signify. For example, a person may get excited about the idea of growing into Christlikeness as a biblical truth that every Christian ought to embrace. Yet there is little evidence in that person’s actions of doing what is necessary to nurture such growth.
I recently read about a research that was conducted to discover how certain religious practices or spiritual disciplines help to provide a discernable movement toward spiritual maturity. Among its conclusions, it suggested that three particular practices stood out: consistent Bible engagement (reading, reflecting, responding/applying), consistent attendance in corporate worship, and consistent participation in a discipleship or Bible study group. Those who do these, specifically, as well as other disciplines, tended to show evidence of personal change and transformation. We may readily declare, “That’s right! I agree.” And we may readily champion the ideas that the research reveals, that they are very important. But how much of these practices do we consistently accomplish in reality? Too often the “concerns of this life” crowd out the very things we claim to be truly important (Mark 4.19). The ideas remain intact, but the reality falls apart.
We may cherish the idea of our family serving the Lord together. But how often do we take action as a family to do so in reality? Last week I was blessed to observe a family (parents and two teenagers) signing up together to do volunteer work at an evacuation center for victims of the wildfires. They were not just in love with the idea of helping. They took action to help in reality.
We may declare commitment to biblical teachings like the Ten Commandments or Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We may affirm the rightness of such teachings and that they are worthy to be advocated. But our commitment may only be intellectual (ideas). The reality of our priorities and our lifestyle may say otherwise. We may declare, “Jesus is Lord.” A solid foundational idea. But do we submit to his lordship and follow his leadership in reality? (Matthew 7.21; Luke 6.46)
—Keith Y. Jainga