Monday, March 22, 2010

Deeply Devoted

My friend wants to know: isn’t enough just to be devoted? Maybe you have not noticed but recently preachers and authors and bloggers have coined new phrases to express what it means to be a “true” Christian. One calls those who are truly, sincerely, committed disciples the “deeply devoted”.

During Lent, maybe we preachers are guilty of calling our people to be “deeply” devoted. So, my friend asks: isn’t it enough just to be devoted?

We do love to play with words, don’t we? No matter what you’re talking about we human beings are prone to set up degrees of devotion, of course, mainly to show that our group is the most truly, significantly, seriously devoted. My group is more devoted, in the right way, of course, than your group.

In politics we hear talk about being Americans. We can’t just be Americans; we have to be “true” Americans. Name the political party and there are those who say that there are members of the party who just carry the name and don’t really mean it. They, and only they, speak for the “true” members of the party.

What about marriage, if I’m just devoted to my wife then I give her a gift on her birthday and anniversary and Christmas. If I’m really devoted, do I then give gifts more often? What makes a better husband, a more devoted spouse? Where would you put Tiger Woods? What kind of husband is he? Undevoted?

We Christians are prone to play this game as well. We, especially at this time of year, are likely to chide those who come to church on Easter and Christmas. The purpose of this is not just to chide them but to make ourselves appear more devoted and therefore better Christians. If you’re a tither are you likely to look down on those who are not tithers? If you work at the soup kitchen, are you likely to think that those who don’t work there are less Christian than you?

You see the dilemma. Paul talks in the New Testament about Christians who see themselves as strong and weak. He says that the strong ought to bear with the weak and reach out to them in loving service.

Someone I know says that many people go to church and sit there thinking (if unconsciously) that they are better than those who are not sitting there.

Several years ago, at a funeral, a concerned member of the family came to me and asked about the deceased: “Was she ready?” I had to think about that. I had been with her over the previous year as she walked by faith through cancer and now death. I said: “What do you mean?” She said: “Did she accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior?” I was interested in the assumption that she believed the deceased had not and was not ready.

I said something like: “Well, she joined my church. She came to the altar and I asked her if she believed in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and she said ‘yes’. So, I think she was ready.”

Lent is that time when we call each other back. Even the “deeply” devoted have things to repent of and do better. We’re all sinners, near as I can tell. And, we’re here in this fellowship by the grace of God alone in Jesus Christ. If someone comes on Easter and Christmas, then God bless them. And, God bless all those who live out their faith daily as well as Sunday.

I think my friend is right. It is enough to be just devoted.

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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