I received a letter a few days ago from EMO, the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. I still haven't figured out how I ended up on their mailing list unless they just send their stuff to every church in the phone book. They write to me periodically, trying to get me to attend a meeting or march in some parade or give money to some cause. And don't get me wrong, most of them are probably nice, polite, well-intentioned people and I'm sure they do some good things. However, I'm not about to get involved with a group that brings together every possible stripe of liberal protestants, Roman Catholics, and openly homosexual churches into one big ecumenical stew pot. Then to give more flavor they spice up the mix by adding in what they call "Interfaith Partners" including Jews, Muslims, Unitarian-Universalists, New-Agers, Zen Buddhists and a bunch of others.
However, what I'm reacting to today is their constant reference to ministers as "those of us in the faith community." I hate that phrase! It means absolutely nothing. What is the "faith community" for crying out loud?
Think about it. Isn't everyone in the "faith community"? We all exercise faith, every day, many times a day. We are all big into faith! When I get in my car and turn the key I have faith that it will start and get me where I need to go. When I sit down in my desk chair I have faith that it will hold me up without crashing to the floor. When I eat my wife's cooking I have faith that she hasn't spiked my food with antifreeze. The truth is we all have lots of faith--in something or other.
Moreover, being part of the "faith community" isn't a question of the quality of our faith. Some people are more religiously devout than others. They will cheerfully walk over broken glass to win the favor of their "god" and sincerely believe that it will make a difference. Some have the faith to believe that their "higher power" will hear them if they fast, meditate, self-mutilate, and do penance. They've got sincere faith to spare!
However, if you place your faith in something that is unworthy, it matters not how much faith you have, or how sincere your faith might be, you will still lose. For example, if I go to the horse races and put my whole August paycheck on EggSalad to win I am exercising faith. That puts me in the "faith community." I may believe with all my heart that EggSalad is the best horse out there--my faith is strong and sincere. However, I don't have all the facts. Maybe EggSalad ate some bad oats yesterday and was up all night. Maybe he's just having an off day. Now when he comes in 7th instead of 1st who am I going to blame? Was there a problem with the quantity of my faith? NO! I had gobs of faith. Was there a problem with the quality of my faith? Again, NO! I truly believed that EggSalad would win it. The problem was with the OBJECT of my faith. I just bet on the wrong horse.
To get back to EMO and the "faith community" thing... There are nice people running around all over the place calling themselves "Christians" who by their teaching and practices deny the very One they claim to know, love, and serve. Think about it-- I can claim to be a mallard duck. However, if I don't have a big orange beak, shiny colorful feathers, webbed-feet and a girlfriend who lays eggs then I'm probably not a real mallard. Likewise, if I claim to know Jesus, to be a Jesus-follower, and yet I have none of the personal character traits of Jesus, I don't do Jesus things, I don't like to hang out with Jesus people, and I don't produce any Jesus type fruit and good works, then I'm probably fooling myself.
Betting on Jesus,