God’s slave

“Mom, Kia says God has a slave.”  Josiah’s loud pronouncement startled me away from my reading, while also answering my puzzlement over what they had been so heatedly discussing for the past several minutes.

Unsure how to respond, I looked up at Josiah.  “Really?  A slave?”  Scrambling for the proper words to correct and educate my two five year old boys, my thinking was cut short.

“Kia says Satan is God’s slave.  That’s true isn’t it?”  My surprised gaze caught the eyes of both boys, who were eager and proud of their fine theological thinking.

Ever since being bombarded with the initial shock of Kia’s suggestion that God has a slave, I’ve been pondering his insight.  Could a five year old boy’s perspective be accurate?  Would Satan be rightfully viewed as a slave of God?  If you consider the characteristics and descriptions of a slave, Kia’s proposal does make some sense.  Satan is limited in his abilities and influence.  He doesn’t appear to be free to do whatever he pleases.  However, Satan’s work is not for the good of the Master.  But even then, God promises to redeem and work Satan’s evil for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Kia’s description might not be all that far off.  Regardless of what conclusions you may draw about Kia’s personification of Satan as God’s slave, consider this.  If nothing else, his idea encouraged you to think about your faith and beliefs in a new light.  It probably caused you to consider what you know (and what you don’t know) about Satan, God and their relationship.  It may have even developed your faith a little.  And that’s a good thing.

A faith unexamined is a faith unable to withstand challenges.  If you’re a bowler, your game will not improve by constantly bowling with bumper pads in place to prevent gutter balls.  If you’re a cook, you will never become a chef simply by perfecting the art of grilled cheese and PB&J sandwiches.  In order to grow, you must challenge yourself.  So too is it with faith.

Certainly, life challenges our faith – but usually we don’t have control over the specifics of those challenges.   So how can you challenge your faith in a “controlled” setting?  Here are three simple ways:

Read – read books that come from your own perspective and view of faith.  But then read books from another perspective.  Read authors you agree with, and authors with whom you probably couldn’t find a single commonality.  Read books from other faith backgrounds.  Read “conservative” viewpoints and “liberal” writings.  Read the books with an open heart and open mind.  If God is truth, and He is everywhere, it is possible to find truth anywhere.

One of my all-time favorite authors is Chaim Potok.  I literally consume his books, and from the moment I start reading one of his novels on page one, I don’t hardly breathe until I close the book.  His books capture my attention.  And, his books have grown my faith as I come to better understand the Hebraic roots and background of Jesus.

Talk – talk to people of different faith backgrounds.  This might be people from other denominations, or even from other religions.  Learn from them.  Let their passion and dedication to their beliefs encourage your own.  Is it a commitment to family, loyalty, kindness or honor that impresses you?  How can you live that out in your own life?  What does God say about that in His Holy Book?  How, for example, might the Muslim’s commitment to pray five times daily enhance your own prayer life?  Be a student of others’ lives – particularly lives which are vastly different from your own.  Ask questions.  Listen.  Engage.  Learn.

Visit – visit other churches.  Go to your regular service, but then go to another church’s early morning or Saturday night service.  When you are out of town, search out a church setting that you can’t find at home and go there.  This past Thanksgiving our family wanted to attend a church service, but could only find one being held in our community on Thanksgiving day.  We’d never been to this church, but knew the service would be very different than anything we’re used to – and so we went.  It was a great experience for all of us, and the kids still talk about the aspects of that service they really enjoyed.  I was delighted to see and experience the truths of Christ shared and taught in a completely new setting.

As our faith develops and grows – it gets bigger.  Think about a flower seed you plant in a pot.  You don’t expect that seed to shrink and shrivel – you look forward to it growing bigger, healthier, and eventually blooming.  So too should our faith be.  If our perspective on God, His love and His grace is shrinking, our faith cannot be growing.  I don’t think God ever intended for us to live with blinders on, staring forward with tunnel vision.

As you read about, talk with and visit churches different than your own, don’t confuse your relationship with Christ with your understanding of Him.  If you begin to rethink your understanding of things like how grace operates, what hell is, or what constitutes salvation, do not fear.  None of those ideas and formulations of God are God Himself.  If your perspective on a doctrinal issue expands or shrinks, it doesn’t change the fact that God still loves you, sent His Son to live and die for you, and forgives your sins.

Maybe it helps to think about it this way.  Picture your spouse – you obviously love him or her.  Over the years you’ve been together, you’ve gotten to know each other more than the first day you proclaimed your love for each other.  That increased knowledge and deeper understanding of your spouse hasn’t changed him/her.  It hasn’t taken away from your relationship.  If anything, it has deepened your relationship.  It has grown your love for each other.  So too is it with God.  As you challenge your faith, inviting and encouraging it to grow, some of your ideas are going to change.  Some of your perspectives will expand.  You’ll begin to more broadly understand that what constitutes God’s church is far greater than just those who think, talk, act, worship and pray exactly like you.

A faith unexamined is a faith unable to withstand challenges.  How are you challenging and growing your faith?  How might you incorporate the ideas of reading, talking and visiting into your own life and faith?