Last week I did a post (and an email for those on my email list) titled “Live Well”, juxtaposing the notion of living long with the notion of living well. A friend sent me the following quote during the week, which relates well to the post:
“We have defined holiness through what we separate ourselves from rather than what we give ourselves to.
I am convinced that the great tragedy is not the sins we commit but the life that we fail to live”.
~ Erwin Raphael McManus from Chasing Daylight
As I write this post, it’s Sunday morning, and all over the western world, folks are preparing to go to church and worship. Well, at least the 20% of Americans who actually attend church on an average Sunday morning. (Note that the number is far less in other western countries.)
But what is “worship”, and is that what’s happening in churches across the country? I was raised as a Lutheran, whose family fell away from church when I was fairly young. In my 20’s, I reconnected with church, and we were extremely active in our church for 15 or 20 years. I rarely attend a church today, and it’s precisely because of that question I raise at the beginning of this paragraph – what’s really happening in most churches?
Sure, there’s a certain amount of true and sincere worship and reflection that’s part of most services. And of course there’s the socializing and community-building that’s a good and wholesome part of maintaining a “tribe”. If this was where it ended, I’d probably still involve myself.
But it rarely ends there. Unfortunately, religion is a political tool used very effectively in America today. It’s a pretty rare church and “pastor” who doesn’t use the pulpit to preach their form of politics, albeit in a subtle way that doesn’t cost them their tax exempt IRS status. And this preaching nearly always centers on separation – how to tell the difference between the “good people”, (presumably those who attend this sort of church or adhere to this brand of politics), and the “bad people”, (presumably anyone else).
This preaching becomes the tool that has “defined holiness through what we separate ourselves from rather than what we give ourselves to”, and it’s very difficult to avoid.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somewhere in America, pastors were being taught about ways to bring unity rather than separation? Imagine the world we’d be seeing right now if every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, (depending on whether your Muslim, Jewish, or Christian), we came together to find ways to seek out and live the greatest life we can find. What if we could truly follow the advice Jesus gave, and look inwardly at our own “sins” rather than focusing on the little indiscretions of those around us? And what if as we look inward, we recognize that the greatest of these sins is our failure to be that window that lets Light shine into the world?
The bulk of the world’s population is trapped in a desperate struggle to survive day-to-day. They’re being starved and abused and worse. The only life they can live is one that will help them survive another day. But I’m born in a country overflowing with riches, where I can live nearly any life I want to live. I’m deciding every day what life I’ll live. Is there a life that I’m choosing not to live – “the life that we fail to live?”
Find that life you’re built to live, and live it.
Live well, indeed.