Recently, when visiting my hometown I got to hang out with an old friend. During our conversation he said, “I don’t have a lot of people in my life that I can talk to about anything significant. People don’t like to think about important issues.” Let that sink in: “People don’t like to think about important issues.”
Note the name of this blog site: “You Are What You Think.” Thinking is imperative to our spiritual journey. God instructs us to use our mind… “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
What we think about God is the most important thing about us. What you think about God affects everything about your life. It affects how you view the world, how you raise your children, how you interact with other people… I could go on and on. With that said, we need to be careful. There are a lot of talking heads, voices in the world, all of which want a platform in your mind. They want to shape the way you think.
The world is full of filters. When we allow the image of God to be sifted, that image quickly becomes distorted. People tend to filter God through many things, including: politics, culture, nationalism, etc. In doing so they develop a false sense of who God really is and it affects their ability to engage him on a deeper level. For example, if you filter God through the lens of American politics you will tend to view God as being on the side of the Republicans or the Democrats. He is not.
If you filter God through patriotism you begin to think that being a good American means being a good Christian, and consequently you begin to view foreigners differently, which leads to discrimination. A pastor recently shared a story with me where someone got up at a funeral and said, “I know uncle Joe is in heaven because the bible says that if you’re an American you go to heaven.” Jesus doesn’t shroud himself in the American flag, or any other flag for that matter. His Kingdom is not of this world.
If you filter God through religious subcultures, you will be tempted to go one of two routes. You might become a fundamentalist who thinks that God is only like the people who share the same views as you, often focusing on non-essentials. Or you may lean toward a Universalist perspective and develop ideas about God revealing himself through various religions.
Some people filter God through media. This ties into my theory on why people don’t like to think about important issues. They’re either afraid or they feel guilty. They’ve been silenced by what I call fear-peddlers and guilt-trippers. You see, your cable news networks are fear-peddlers. They’ve got to keep the ratings up, so they spin every story. The more shocking, the more heated the commentary, the more debate, the more “what ifs”… the better the ratings.
Then you have the guilt-trippers, those who over-empathize with every movement that comes along. These are people who guilt you into being silent. Those who say things like, “Can’t we all just get alone… shame on you for saying anything contrary to another person’s opinion.” These people would rather take the “live and let live” approach than to speak truth and risk offending someone… even so far as calling those things which are evil, good (Isaiah 5:20).
Conservatives tend to be fear-peddlers (i.e. warning, “if you don’t do this”). Liberals have a tendency to be guilt-trippers (i.e. threatening, “how dare you”). When the liberals label me “conservative” and the conservatives label me “liberal” it helps me realize that I must be doing something right. My desire is to be a good citizen of the Kingdom of God and I believe the way of the Kingdom is discovered in-between all the rhetoric and labeling.
Reducing the talking heads is imperative for a healthy spiritual life. Take a break from all the noise. Discover the beauty and majesty of silence. Learn to listen for that small still voice in the midst of all the clamor. Filtering God through our own unique preferences and leanings certainly has the ability to damage how we think about God and realizing that makes a huge difference in our walk with him.
Turn off the news networks. Turn down the volume on the fundies and libs. Refuse to allow your life to be inundated by fear-peddlers and guilt-trippers. Stop allowing negative influences to shape your thinking. Don’t allow God to be filtered. Disconnect. Find the in-between. You don’t need the talking heads of modern culture informing your every thought. Read, pray, open the scripture, and seek the wisdom that only comes from above. It will change everything…guaranteed.