Do you flinch every time a spiritual topic comes up? Does it feel like someone pulled a stun gun on you when someone mentions the guy whose name starts with the letter J? Have you allowed yourself to think about why? Do you consider spiritual things to be private, not concrete, not clearly defined, scary and definitely not fun? Are you afraid to be educated in spiritual matters, afraid to learn something not talked about in your family, your neighborhood, your culture or even among friends?
People establish values in order to organize their lives and to organize society. While some value systems can be good to build a life on, they can also build walls and divide.
A value system is a set of beliefs and attitudes that members of a group all share. They buy into those beliefs (which come with certain attitudes and protection mechanisms), and a cohesive group is formed. It’s the very definition of ethnocentricity—when members of a group or culture believe that their values and way of living is better or more important than others’. A comprehensive list of values is too large to list here, but imagine if you were born into a group whose top values were:
GROUP 1 : accomplishment, higher education, ambition, wealth, status
GROUP 2: nature, adventure, travel, environmental concerns
GROUP 3: art, culture, music, entertainment, amusement, celebrity
GROUP 4: affection, community, family, devotion, friendship, faith
The values of either of these groups become the beacon that leads them, the driving force for all life decisions. Group 1 enforces their primary values with their young, pushing them to accomplish certain milestones in order to be the next generation who maintain the status quo. They may admire some values of other groups, but the values of other groups are secondary. Their primary values are placed on a pedestal above all else.
All groups tend to function in the same way, but I’ve said for years that whatever your strength is can turn out to be your weakness—a strength on one end of the spectrum and a weakness at the opposite end.
This is a simple example of how value systems become set in stone, unshakeable, unmoveable and not open to compromise. This is also an example of how some value systems build walls and divide one group from another. What if your future best friend or spouse was in one of those other groups, but rigid boundaries and beliefs restricted you from crossing the line? But that’s a topic for another time.
So when someone asks you “Are you a Christian?” you may flinch for a number of reasons. You know instinctively that others nearby are flinching, too, because they looked up to identify the one who asked the question or they changed their location in the room. They flinched at the openness of someone whose values were different. They’re now prepared to gather in cliques and decide how to avoid the person who brought up an unorthodox topic. How dare they not realize that some topics are private and to be discussed in “safe zones” only.
Let’s talk about true Christianity for a moment—not the fake stuff you see in the mainstream media or in social media for that matter. The values that are found in true Christianity include faith, virtue (morally good behavior), knowledge, temperance (self-control), patience, godliness, kindness and love. These values can be embraced by any group. [2 Peter 1:3-8]
The truth is that when Christianity is mentioned in some circles today, the waters part, people get ostracized, labels are assigned, promotions go elsewhere, phone calls are not returned, walls get erected, and the fate of companies is placed in the hands of a trusted clique member who can affect hundreds of lives for better or worse.
Be honest with yourself if with no one else. Why are you flinching when spiritual matters come up? Have you discovered any meaningful value in Christianity? Does it have any power? Does it have the potential to improve your life in any way? Could it help you with your academic scores, job problems, relationships, or your own personal health?
If you achieved great accomplishments, became wealthy, enjoyed nature, promoted culture, made great music, showed natural affection, raised a family and had wonderful friends, then discovered that you had left the single most important value untouched and unexplored—to your detriment, how would you feel?
Consider it because God loves hard, and there’s a great deal more in store for you!