We hear it said that, “Christians hate gay marriage, abortion, Obama, big government, socialism, communism and welfare. Christians hate socialized medicine, illegal immigration, and taxes.” Of course, such statements are broad generalizations that are not uniformly true or fair. It is no secret that the opposing poles of morality and politically correct thinking have set our culture on edge. One can hardly speak about issues of the heart without being demonized or vilified by others. It is a corrosive environment that diminishes meaningful interaction and prevents heartfelt dialogue. And now I think I know why.
What is missing in contemporary American culture and religious life can be summed up in one word—reverence! As a culture we have lost our sense of reverence for life, for humanity, for the mysteries of creation—for God! Unintentionally we have come to view faith and spirituality in practical, human terms. We have replaced mystery with expectation. We’ve been to the moon and have landed on Mars. We’ve been to the depths of the sea and have explored the intricacies of DNA. We believe there is nothing that science cannot explain and that our technologies cannot master—which is why we find it hard to be amazed!
Reverence challenges our formulas and expectations and keeps us from thinking we know it all. Likewise it keeps us from sitting in judgment upon everything or everyone who is different from us.
Reverence prevents us from trying to answer every question and solve every riddle. Life is supposed to be mysterious, overwhelming and incredibly amazing. If we think we’ve figured it out, there’s a good chance we’ve lost our sense of reverence. Paul Woodruff says, “To forget that you are only human, to think you can act like a god—this is the opposite of reverence.” Barbara Brown Taylor expands on this by saying, “Reverence is the recognition of something greater than the self—something that is beyond human creation or control, that transcends full human understanding.”
Reverence occurs when we understand that we don’t understand; that our knowledge is imperfect and that we too are part of life’s mystery.
The problem with Pop Christianity is that it tries to answer every question, eradicate every sin and solve every mystery. If this were actually possible, there would be no need for wonder, reverence, or God.
Of all people, those who profess to follow Jesus need to be surrounded by wonder, a sense of awe and reverence. We need to be respectful of nature, one another, our limitations, the brevity of our lives, other cultures, and of course the One who makes it all possible. With the Psalmist let us say, “Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him” (Psalm 33:8, NLT).
Rich DuBose writes from Northern California.
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