As most of you are aware, our culture has developed a new language. I’m not sure what the technical title of this new language is, but I call it “texting lingo.” Yes, I know, that’s a highly technical term… This language uses abbreviations to represent full sentences. One such abbreviation is “idk”. “Idk” simply means “I don’t know.” And a lot of times, I must admit, I don’t...
I have been thinking a lot about what Christianity is and what it must have been like for the early Christians. For the average Christian living in the first century, there must have been a number of questions they had, the answer to which they had no idea. From even a cursory reading of the New Testament it is not difficult to see that folks had questions. In 1 Corinthians 7:1, Paul said, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote…” It is obvious from this simple statement there were matters about which the Christians in Corinth had questions. Over and over again it seems that Paul, and the other New Testament writers, addressed subjects they knew to be difficult or unknown to their audience. This helps me understand that the questions I have, the uncertainties and even concerns about some passages are okay. Could it be that there are simply some ideas and concepts that I may never be able to fully grasp? Of course.
I am understanding more and more the reality of trying to follow the teachings of scripture. While there are difficult teachings, it would seem the import of the New Testament teaches we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. But in order for me to do that I must begin this journey of developing and growing in my spirituality. I must cultivate a faith of my own from those teachings I find in God’s word. This may be where the biggest challenge lies. It seems difficult for many to move from a posture of “doing Church” because that was how they were raised, or their parents and family always went to church, to a posture of realizing that I respond to God based on my individual faith. My response to God must not, and cannot be through the faith of my family. Without a doubt, our families play a major role in how we perceive God and his will for our lives. Paul even acknowledges Timothy’s grandmother and mother. He says Lois and Eunice had faith that eventually Timothy possessed. But Timothy’s faith was not Lois’ or Eunice’s. Timothy’s faith was his own, developed through his own growth and understanding of God and Christ. This was obviously precipitated by the demonstration of faith in the lives of his grandmother and mother. But our family does not, and cannot supply our faith. Faith must be developed within each of us.
I once had a discussion with an elder about the way we develop and grow as a Christian. Our discussions were always open and we both felt free to share our concerns and thoughts. On one particular occasion I asked him if he ever wondered if what we call “Church” (and everything involved with that term) was real, or just something that we (humans throughout the centuries) have conjured up in our minds so that we won’t feel alone or without purpose. He very quickly let me know that he has often questioned that very concept. Does that make him less of a person in the sight of God? Some would be quick to think so. With college football season just around the corner, I feel compelled to use Lee Corso’s famous line, “Not so fast, my friend!” Maybe this is not so abnormal. Those questions we all have are what drive us to a deeper understanding of God. I think it is human nature, or at least one of our societal norms, to question everything. As our children grow and develop, much the same as we did, they ask questions…multiple times a day…wait…multiple times an hour, or even every minute. It is these questions that help them learn and understand the world around them. If we never have questions, how can we grow and develop in our relationship with God? Questioning seems to be a major way our faith is enhanced and advanced. In Genesis 32, we see Jacob wrestling with God. The Bible says he called the place Peniel, which means the face of God. This is the great scene where Jacob’s name is changed to Israel. God said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” When we have questions along our journey, when we wrestle with God and prevail, great blessing comes, growth and development are realized, and our relationship with God is strengthened.
At any rate, my conversation with this elder turned quickly to how we can know that we are a part of the one church that is talked about in scripture. Do we have every detail correct and all others who do not agree with us are wrong? That’s a very difficult question. It puts us in the seat of God, and his throne is not our seat. It is easier for us to look at this topic and say, “I know what God says in his Word regarding his Church, and that is what I have to strive to be.” The question then is, “Am I…are we…being that Church?” The reality of being that Church rests solely in our following God’s will for His people.
There is a big difference in rolling something over in your mind and actually discussing your thoughts with someone else and hearing their reaction. Scott Adair, a professor at Harding University, said something that really had an impact on me and the way I look at teaching and spiritual conversations. As he was talking about making yourself vulnerable as a teacher he said, “We don’t have to have all the answers. It is okay to say, ‘I don’t really know.’” He is right. Much of the time, either when we are teaching a Bible class or having a spiritual conversation with someone, we try to have all the answers to questions that are raised. We end up feeling the pressure to supply the answers to everyone’s questions. We must realize that it means more to the people with whom we engage when they know we are intellectually honest. It says a lot to others when we make ourselves vulnerable to them by admitting we simply don’t have all the answers. Our own prideful tendencies are what drive us to this place of believing we must offer some type of answer, even if we know (and even thinking it at the time) that we have no idea what we are talking about. As we develop and mature as Christians, we will begin to see the benefits of living a humble life in God. We will have questions along the way, and that is okay. Those questions will help us continue to develop our faith, and I believe God uses those questions we have to strengthen our understanding of his will for us. May we never be so arrogant as to think we have all the answers. God has given us what we need to understand his will for us. May we always follow his will, being obedient to his word. And may we always remember that it is okay to say, “idk.”