Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Faithful Choices

Yesterday, we looked at a commitment to excellence as a mark of faith. You don't have to enjoy what you're doing to do it well, to do it in such a way that God's glory shines through it. Today, a related idea, but something a little bit different.

Before the coronavirus shut down our churches, I was teaching a Sunday school class called, "The Rock and the Hard Places: Tackling the Tough Questions." On our last Sunday together, the question we decided to tackle was about cremation.

For nearly an hour, six of us sat in a room and talked about what we wrestle with around cremation and what God has to say about it, looking at the Scriptures, taking testimony from the lives (and deaths) of characters throughout our Bible. We really went all out, digging deep to incorporate any and every little bit of evidence that we had on a question that is not directly addressed really anywhere, not in the ways that we would want it to be.

When the conversation finished, someone in the room piped up and said, "To me, what I do with my body after death is just like picking out cookies at the grocery store." A handful of giggles erupted around the room and someone jokingly asked me how I thought my lesson went. I slumped my shoulders by instinct and hung my head, a little tongue-in-cheek but also a little defeated. I had invested a lot of time in developing this lesson in response to the question that was asked. I had dug deep. I had put everything together and synthesized it in such a way that it presented a compelling argument on, at the very least, how the decision should be considered, and here was this woman, a woman who had been engaged in the discussion, saying that to her, it was still an inconsequential decision.

But it didn't actually take much thinking, after I got some space to think, for me to realize that...I actually agree with her. I actually agree with this woman that what she chooses to do with her body after she dies is no different than picking out cookies at the grocery store.

Not because both decisions are inconsequential, but precisely because they are very consequential. Both decisions should equally demonstrate the faith that we have in God.

Now, it's probably easy to see how a decision about cremation has a lot to say about what we believe about God. God has always had some pretty strong beliefs about human life and dignity and dignity in death and eternity and all of that stuff. Those are exactly the kind of ideals that we ought to hold in our hearts as we make decisions about our bodies.

But God has decidedly less to say about cookies. So how does picking cookies in a grocery store display our faith?

Simply put, in how we make our choice.

This woman implied that cookies are cookies, that she doesn't care what she ends up with, that she just picks up the first couple and walks out because hey, cookies are cookies. Let's say that's you. Let's say you don't care much about what cookies you end up with and typically just grab the first couple of packages and walk out (paying first, of course). What if you stopped to consider what might glorify God in this moment?

Maybe there's a package that's a little damaged. Most everyone looks at this package and doesn't want it, for obvious reasons. But if you really don't care about cookies, then you should take the damaged package and leave the intact packages for those who care about their cookies. A faithful decision is to recognize that you are unattached to this decision, so to take the package least likely to be picked by others. In doing so, you honor others by giving them the best. That's faithfulness to God - you don't demand the best for yourself, especially when you don't claim to care about it too much.

Or maybe you find that there are only a couple of packages left of one particular cookie and a whole bunch of another type. If you really don't care, then you should take the cookies of which there are more available. Because let's say a mother comes in frantic after her bakery has failed her, and she needs a specific cookie for her child's party. Let's say those are the cookies her child really wants, has his heart set on. If you take them just because they're easy and it doesn't actually matter to you, then you've just ruined a child's birthday party by failing to consider someone else. Or let's say that the package has been shaken and the cookies are every which way and the icing is a little smeared. If it doesn't matter to you, take that one. Leave the picture-perfect cookies for someone who has an investment in a need for cookies today.

Are you seeing the pattern here? Every decision should be a measured one. There are no inconsequential decisions. Every choice we make either demonstrates that we're thinking of God and others...or we are not thinking at all. No matter what we do, we should constantly be demonstrating that we are a people of faith - a people committed to love, a people satisfied in God, a people thoughtful about our lives.

Cookies may seem like a silly example, but only, I guess, if you really don't care much about cookies. But put yourself in someone else's shoes. Maybe you're the one who needs cookies for something special. Imagine yourself behind someone who "doesn't care," who isn't putting something together and just wants cookies for this reason or that. Imagine listening to her say, "Well, I guess I'll take this one" and grabbing the last package of what you need for your event. She doesn't even care. She didn't even stop to think about anyone. She didn't consider what was right in front of her face, plain to see. She was disengaged because, hey, it's just cookies to her. She never once thought it might be more than cookies to someone else.

That's what faithful decisions are about - they're about staying engaged. They're about being locked in on life and fully invested in it. They're about figuring out what love is in any given situation, no matter how big or how small. They're about choosing to honor God and to love others with our choices, even when they seem inconsequential. They're about humbling ourselves when we can and remembering there's a world beyond our own borders. There are no inconsequential decisions in life. Every decision we make impacts us and impacts others, and that means that every decision is a holy one. And that means every decision should be a faithful one.

Our class has not yet been able to gather together again, so I haven't been able to tell them that I actually agree with this woman who said that what she does with her body is the same to her as picking up cookies in the grocery store. But I plan to tell them just that. Not because neither decision matters much, but precisely because they both matter immensely. 

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