I was doing my devotion recently looking at Psalms and I came across Psalms 14 again. It’s probably the least liked of the Psalms in our contemporary world except for those who quote it to win arguments in apologetics. But what strikes me every time I read it is I have a bit of hesitation hearing the word of God call people foolish. It sounds like one of those things your mum says you shouldn’t say in public. I know it doesn’t refer to intellectual inadequacy as it goes for the heart, not the mind. It speaks of how our hearts inform our actions and way of life. I think it explains Genesis 3 and the world we live in perfectly and yet it still feels a bit weird. Why? I think it’s because that’s not a popular thing to say today.
You see we live in the era of popularity. What goes and who we follow is not necessarily based on what is right but what is popular. Our virtue is not right and decent but popular and acceptable depending on where we stand. Sometimes I see people fight and argue thinking they are defending what is right but in reality, they are defending what is popular or unpopular according to their school of thought. Yes, I should say unpopular ideas are also popular these days. Some people just like those guys who stand for what is unpopular.
The martyrs of the age are not those who say I cannot denounce the truth so help me God, but those ready to spill blood on the altar of popular ideas. The politicians we love and celebrate are not always the ones on the side of the truth but those who have chosen the popular side. The preacher who draws crowds to his channel says the things that itch the ears of popular culture. The one who rises to attack him can also earn themselves popularity because some people just don’t like going with the flow. In the end, truth is not what counts but choosing your crowd.
But the question we must ask is a personal one. We need to evaluate what we stand for and ask if we are victims or perpetrators in this war. If there are things that don’t sound right in my head is it because they are wrong or because the culture and the people I follow have made them seem wrong? If I hold to a certain truth and subscribe to a certain school of thought is it because it’s biblical or just what sells in my clan these days? If I hate a certain way of life and don’t want to listen to a particular way of thinking is it because they are just not popular to me? If I hold so strongly to a particular doctrine and expression of faith is it because it’s what’s popular within my denomination? Remember popular or unpopular shouldn’t be where I stop. We need to bring back the truth and the whole truth as the yardstick of our faith and way of life. I propose 2 things to start us off in this discussion:
Start by Evaluating your own School of Thought
We cannot just sit comfortably with a way of thinking because all our heroes stand there. If we are Christians we need to be even more careful with those men and women we hold in the highest regard. I’m not saying we don’t celebrate how God is working through them. But when it comes to questions of faith and how to live the word of God and the whole word should have the last say. I think if we did more reflection beyond what just goes we might hold our convictions with a bit of nuance, we might move camps in theological debates but most importantly we’ll have the right foundation for faith and life. We might also learn something from those we most disagree with. Here I don’t mean we always go for compromise but we should ask ourselves why we believe and live the way we do.
From the word, we learn that our faith is both a shared and personal faith. Certain schools of thought will be big on the personal and not the communal. This is where Jesus and his word are my personal business and I don’t care what others do. Such people might need to be reminded he’s also our Saviour. But on the other hand are those whose faith and religion are merely borrowed from others in their popular domain. They affirm everything their heroes stand for and would disagree with the word if their clan chose to. I want to suggest regardless of where we begin we should get to that point where the word, not just what seems popular and okay in our circle, should inform our faith and lifestyle more. The word will fix our blind spots and give us the right worldview which means sometimes we’ll disagree with our heroes if the word convinces us otherwise. I want to especially suggest that if the Bible holds things in tension we shouldn’t try to edit and fix that out because our heroes stand somewhere else. We might need to survey that tension a bit more. We may have to change our battle fronts for what the word says is non negotiable.
Don’t Be Quick to Dismiss Others
On the other hand, it’s possible to build our faith by always standing for the unpopular side. We might find ourselves always siding with the unpopular and seeking to correct others with our favourite portions of the Word. But that’s not how the Word works. Read well and applied, the word of God will teach us, train us, encourage us, build us, correct and rebuke us, see 2 Tim 3:16-17. All those things should be happening in the life of a believer without always leaning on one side to make us complete. And those things should be present in our ongoing interaction with fellow believers.
But if every time I come to the word I’m only thinking about how to influence others and only seeing one side of this then I’m probably just using the word to cement my school of thought. I won’t learn and grow if the Bible only tells me what I already stand for and what I think others are wrong about. I won’t build fellow believers if I only magnify what we disagree on. When I always come to the word and leave thinking how right I am then there’s something I’m missing. If I only think others should hear a particular passage perhaps pride has overcome me. And if the word only seems to leave me on my own island then I’m probably in too deep with my preferred clan. When I think that only I and my denomination has got things right then I might need the reminder that church universal and scattered is bigger than that.
I know I’m trying to unsettle waters here and leaving you with more questions than answers. It would be easier if I was more specific and I told you exactly what to do. But I think sometimes that’s the problem. Where we are used to being told what to believe and what to do without taking the time to own those beliefs and actions. Don’t get me wrong there’s a good place to firmly teach what to believe and how to act.
But I want to suggest that we need to evaluate our own beliefs and lifestyle not just on the basis of what goes in our popular culture but on what the word says. Wouldn’t it be great if we opened the Bible more than we do Ted talks and Tiktok on issues of faith and life? Wouldn’t we paint a better picture of Christianity to the world if we were more gracious when hearing from other believers and wanting to measure everything by the yardstick of the word? Wouldn’t we be better witnesses of the Gospel if the Bible and the whole Bible, not the popular or unpopular culture was our source of authority?