For many people Easter represents the one or two times we attend church in a year. It’s where some people approach church tentatively, not sure what they think, but seeking God. Others go because of a formality, usually a family obligation. (Don’t worry. I attended many church functions out of obligation before I became a Christian. )
Churches spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to connect with these Christmas and Easter visitors. They try to understand why they don’t attend. Or how we, as the church, could reach out to them.
Those are all well and good questions. But that’s not what I’m interested in today. What I want to focus on is how we, as the church, behave. How do our actions, our lives, play out to these Easter attenders? Can they tell we live out lives of faith? Or are we viewed as what’s been called the “unChristian“?
In the book Faith & Doubt, John Ortberg identifies three levels of belief – Public, Private, Core. Depending on the topic, your views may fall into any of these three categories. It’s the difference in categories that determine your actions.
1. Public – These are beliefs that you want people to think you hold, even when you don’t. “Oh sure I loved your ‘macaroni surprise’” is an example of a public belief.
2. Private - Beliefs that you think are sincere, but turn out not to be. Peter was convinced he would follow Jesus to death. But when it came down to it, he denied even knowing Jesus.
3. Core - These are beliefs that are shown through our daily actions. When we say we care about the homeless, that’s all well and good. People with core beliefs do something about it.
Think about any belief you have.
They fall into one of these categories. We tell our kids “that was a wonderful recital”, but we know it wasn’t (public belief). We say it because the truth isn’t the loving action, building into them is. Public beliefs can be good. They help us maintain relationships when the brutal, cold, “truth” couldn’t. Yet we can get caught in a dangerous trap of always wanting to fit in. We can get caught in the world of “making other people happy.” (How many of us have complained that politicians don’t follow through with their promises? Those politicians often get caught in the public belief)
When I look at Christianity in the general, anecdotal sense, I fear that too many people only hold Christianity as a public belief. It is only something to do for a few hours on Sunday. It isn’t life changing. It isn’t radical, it isn’t revolutionary, and it certainly isn’t different.
When we take that flat, boring, public belief and interact with non-believers, how should we expect them to respond?
Easter is about God stepping into history and taking a hit that you and I deserve. Jesus was characterized by living in the core beliefs he espoused. When Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” he wasn’t just giving a talking point. He was telling the disciples what God was about. Who God was at his core.
I want to move my beliefs from the public to the core. I don’t want my life filled with things I say I believe, when I really don’t. I started out this post saying that I used to go to church out of obligation. But you know what? There are times I still go to church out of obligation. Simply because it’s Saturday. That’s okay sometimes. It’s okay to want to be watching football some days. But pretending you want to be at church when you don’t – that leads you down the road of hypocrisy.
I want people to look at me and see no difference between how I live my life, and what I write on R3. I want people to see me living out a life of faith. How about you? What do you want?