Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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Spectator or participant?

Canadian politics just became much more interesting. Maxime Bernier has withdrawn from the Conservative Party, of which he almost became leader, to found a new political party. He is speaking up about issues that others want to avoid talking about and this has raised a storm of criticism. Perhaps he is starting a movement at just the opportune moment to bring the country back to the principles that unite us. Or perhaps his movement will fizzle out and just be a footnote in history. In either case the next few months promise to be interesting for political observers.

However, for those of us who are Christians, we must remember one thing: in politics we must remain spectators, not participants. Politics is a dirty business and no one who engages in politics, however pure his intentions, can avoid becoming soiled. Politics is he art of the compromise, but a compromise is seldom reached before a lot of grime and slime is slung about. Christians cannot win at such a game, unless they cease speaking and acting like Christians.

In the church we must be participants, not mere spectators. If we think the purpose of the church is to provide spiritual entertainment, we will be disappointed. But if we are looking for something to do that is meaningful and fulfilling, the church has a place for us. It may not be highly visible, but if that’s what we want we should ask ourselves if we understand what truly matters in life. There are people in the church who see things differently than we do. Listen to them, perhaps we have missed something. We should speak freely about the things that matter to us that they may have missed. We need to love them, and be lovable. Above all, follow the promoting of the Holy Spirit and trust that they are doing that too. When we are all led by the Holy Spirit the work we are doing will result in something far better than any one of us could have planned.

Having fun is not the purpose of our life.

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Happiness is often confused with having fun. But ask yourself, isn’t the root of your desire for fun a wish to have your attention diverted from your problems, at least for a moment? To feel a constant need for amusement, entertainment, or recreation is self-defeating and even self-destructive.

If our happiness is dependent on what other people do, or on other people leaving us alone to do our own thing, they will always disappoint us and spoil our fun.

What is happiness? Isn’t it a feeling of contentment, a sense that things are going well? That’s what we really long for, isn’t it? It is not popularity, or a belief that everybody admires me, or envies me. “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain.”

To paraphrase Solomon: “He that loveth fun shall not be satisfied with fun; nor he that loveth excitement with extreme thrills.” Fun will always disappoint us, we can never get enough to satisfy us.

The only reasonable thing to do then is to abandon all attempts to make ourselves happy and do our utmost to make others happy. Even then, happiness does not depend on the thankfulness of the other person, though that is sometimes an added benefit. It is quite alright if our kindness goes unnoticed, unseen by others.

Neither does happiness lie in slapping a band aid on someone’s wound, going my way and congratulating myself on what a good fellow I am. Helping someone else starts with listening. That may become painful and messy, but they need someone to listen. Sometimes that is all we can do. Sometimes that is enough.

True happiness lies in knowing that we have done something to make life a little better, a little less painful, for someone else. It is the feeling that we have done what we could.

The difference between worship and entertainment

Worship is an act of homage, reverence and devotion paid to a deity. Entertainment is something that offers us amusement, excitement and a diversion from the mundane problems of our life.

Worship is something we do; it implies an active participation in the act of worship. Entertainment is an activity where we are merely spectators. Our emotions may be thoroughly aroused, but we have no active role in the activity being presented.

These concepts seem to have become all muddled up in our day. Many people regard church as a spectator activity; they go to church expecting an experience, lively music, an attention grabbing message, eloquent prayers. At the same time, there appears to be a very real adoration and worship of singers, musicians, actors and athletes.

But none of these popular gods can do anything to help us with the real problems of our life. The best they can do is divert our attention from our real needs for a moment and allow us to participate vicariously in their seemingly glamorous and thrilling lives. That will eventually grow old and leave us deflated.

True worship of God the Creator does not need to be embellished by ornate buildings, loud music or human eloquence. Our need is to meet our maker in heartfelt adoration, make our pleas known to Him and to hear what He might have to say to us. This may come through the words of a song, the reading of Scriptures, the words that are spoken and the prayers that are made in the service, but the ultimate source of what we receive is not in the outward things, but in the inward working of the Holy Spirit.

Meaningful worship does not depend so much on the performance of the preacher, or of others who take an active part in the service, but in an attitude of the heart that feels a need to commune with God through worshipping together with those who are bound together in the same faith.

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