We Are Not Who We Say We Are

06.19.11 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[6]

Well, here’s the good news.  92% of Americans say they believe in God, according to a new Gallup poll.  Wow!  Really?  As of today (June 19) that would be 286,648,231 people.  Hmmm…seems like things would be going better if that were really the case.  If nearly 300 million people believe in God, why do we have all the problems we do?  Wouldn’t there be some sort of spiritual revival?  Wouldn’t more people get along with each other?  Wouldn’t there be less poverty and economic disparity?

Maybe it’s in how we define things.  So an overwhelming majority of Americans say they believe in God.  How do they define the word ‘believe’?  Most dictionaries and thesauruses will say something like, “to accept something as true” or “to be convinced of the truth or existence of something”.  But is that it?  Is it enough to just say we believe? 

Here’s the bad news.  We are not who we say we are.

We live in an age in which everything is magnified through the lenses of constantly evolving technology, insatiable mass media and an attitude of skepticism.  Life is moving faster than ever yet we continually mistake speed for progress and confuse the trends of the moment with true ethics and moral fiber.  I think this applies to people who consider themselves Christians and those who don’t.  People say they believe.  But what if their actions don’t follow?  No problem.  Give it a few news cycles, a natural disaster somewhere around the globe or the meltdown of a Hollywood celebrity and we’ll forget all about it.  And we’ll probably forgive you.  Consequences?  Maybe in the short term.  But the culture’s shifting morals and its inability to link belief with responsible deeds means you’ll probably have a book deal within a year and a TV show within three years.  (Eliot Spitzer, anyone?)

We are not who we say we are.

Take Jim Tressel, the Ohio State football coach who resigned a couple of weeks ago after denying he knew anything of the allegations of misconduct by OS players.  When the allegations came to light, he lied again.  Tressel, who ended his career with a 106-22 record at Ohio State, is also the author of ‘The Winners Manual’, a book that espouses character and seeking the high moral ground.  “Discipline is what you do when no one is looking” he wrote.  Oops.

Or Anthony Weiner.  It wasn’t just what he did, it was the fact that he repeatedly lied about and denied the allegations against him.  Defiant and argumentative to the very end, his resignation speech didn’t reflect the fact that he was practically drummed out of Congress or that the President suggested resignation was the only appropriate course of action.  No, it was all about him, that he needed “more time to heal.”  What he admitted to doing wasn’t scandalous; he just made “personal mistakes” and caused a “distraction.”  He didn’t betray his oath of office or his constituents; he says he’s just looking for “other ways to contribute my talent.”  Really, Anthony?  I think we’ve had about enough of your ‘talent’. 

Of course the evangelical world is not exempt from the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality.  George Alan Rekers, Joe Barron, Ted Haggard, Ergun Caner and Mike Guglielmucci are just a few of the prominent names to be sullied in recent years by scandal and compulsive behaviors.   Makes me nostalgic for the days of Jim and Tammy Faye.

We are not who we say we are.

It’s often said that if you want to see a bunch of hypocrites, visit any local church.  I don’t have to go that far.  All I have to do is look in the mirror.  Because I know that as sincere and honest as my motives are; as much as I try to put my beliefs into practice; as much as I try to live an honest and transparent life, I’m still human.  And some days I struggle with questions about life, faith, what we believe and how we put it into practice.  Some days the answers don’t satisfy the questions.  There are times when much of what I’ve learned in forty years of following Christ seems inadequate to deal with the situations life brings. 

But there’s a difference between honest mistakes and willful disobedience.  One is an unavoidable and necessary part of spiritual growth; you learn and move on.  The other reveals a deliberate disconnect between what you say you believe and how you live your life.  Giving intellectual assent to a statement like ‘I believe in God’ is easy to do.  But seeking to live your life in such a way that you become living evidence of what you say you believe takes a changed heart.  It’s the difference between righteousness and hypocrisy.  Sadly, we have far too many examples of lives, careers and ministries that are circling the drain.  “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” (Matt. 15:8)  Casual indifference.  A hardened heart.  A lost soul.

At least the other 8% were honest.  Well, maybe that’s unfair.  I’m sure some of the 92% honestly think they believe in God.  The question is, what God?  A God that doesn’t restrict their behavior or demand anything of them?  A cosmic sugar daddy?  Yeah.  Now that sounds like a God America can get behind.


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 06.20.11 precious dwight commented

Believe is an action word. If you believe in God you need to make a conscious effort to do what He says - "This is my Son (Jesus) in Whom I am well pleased, listen to Him". We live in the times of Math 24:12 when iniquitu is abounding and the love of many is growing cold. The only way any of us can live a life that brings honor to our Heavenly Father is by constaly looking unto Jesus Heb 2:2. We must retrain ourselve in the Word, renewing our minds, holding conversation with the Lord, consciously keeping Him in our focus. The days are so evil that the line to deviate is very subtle. But we cannot live in fear of failure.He is the strenght of our lives. He who has begun a good work in us is well able complete the work He has started. The Bible says that the devil beileves and trembles. We need to keep praying for people. God has set His standards and He is not going to change it. His standard is the Word -Jesus Christ. He has made His grace available to as many as will are serious about their faith in Christ. Grace simply means God's ability at work on in and on behalf of those who passionately desire to please Him

on 06.21.11 Tiffany commented

I think all those polls are kind of foolish because people say whatever pops into their head. A lot of people think they know what they believe but they really don't. If they did, like you said they would act a lot differently. I think that's why a lot of non Christians look at Christians and kind of laugh because they see the hypocrisy. It's sad.

on 06.22.11 Roger commented

It's like Pogo said, 'we have met the enemy and he is us.' It's not the world that is hurting the cause of Christ, it's us. I was in a church in California and there was an assistant pastor scandal and the local news played it up big time. The best anyone from the church could say was 'well not all Christians are like that.' But the world wants more from us. If we really expect people to follow Christ they have to see Him in us first. Good blog. Thanks.

on 06.22.11 Mike T. commented

You hit the nail on the head!

on 06.26.11 April commented

You're right. I heard this on the radio or tv and I thought yeah right. But on the good side I see it as the Lord getting the church ready for His return. People are going to be led away by false doctrine and saying they believe when they really don't. So it's hard to watch but I think in a way it's a part of what the last days are about.

on 06.27.11 Bob S. commented

I had to look up a couple of those names you mentioned but they all messed up because they didn't have their eyes on the Lord. Maybe they did to start but something changed and so many innocent people have been hurt. It's bad enough that these people have to pay a price but it's going to be even worse for them because they've deceived so many people. Like you said, we're all human but we have to try to live for the Lord and not give in to the flesh. Good article.