This morning as I lay in bed contemplating whether I’d get up or just lay there for a while longer, I was reminded of the phrase “getting back to the discarded values of the past”. That was a phrase a Pastor who had quite a bit of influence in my early Christian development would use from time to time. I knew what he meant way back then, and I know what that phrase means to me today. Based on what I see in the world today and more specifically in the church, I think, for some, the very word “values” has a different meaning than it once did.
The dictionary defines “value” as: the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something; a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
So let’s break this down a bit. And let me first say I realize what someone personally values and how something is valued is relative. What you hold in high esteem versus what I do are probably gonna be quite different, but I truly believe some things should just be part of who we are as human beings. For instance, we should not murder each other, steal other’s belongings, and generally treat others like we would want to be treated.
Growing up in a Christian home and being influenced on all sides by people of said faith it was instilled in me the value to love my neighbor, to care for my fellowman, to have compassion for those hurting, and to offer help to those who needed it. Times seemed simpler and these values were less complicated or difficult to accomplish. Let me also say I didn’t agree with everything I grew up being taught. There were a lot of rules based on old testament law that were downright archaic, but that’s for another post, and we all have to grow up in our own faith.
Since the advent of the internet and social media, while it in and of itself is an amazing and wonderful thing, it has also brought with it decay in the values I grew up with. Let me explain. Something (the internet) that was created to connect us has been one of the biggest reasons that we’ve become disconnected. An invention so fantastic that connects us to someone on the another side of the world at a moment’s notice, can divide us in our own home. I’ve been guilty of getting angry enough to break connection over something someone says on a social media post, when I maybe didn’t have the full context of what was even being said, when the same conversation in person could have possibly had a completely different reaction or outcome. We’ve become keyboard commandos and allowed bitterness, judgment, and envy, that should have been buried and dead, to live and thrive through our fingertips.
Now the internet is not to blame for the moral or relational decay in our society, at least not entirely. I’m quite sure no one single thing is to blame, but I suspect a million little things along the way have contributed. It would take a book to convey everything I believe led us to where we are currently as a society in how we relate to one another, and I’m just not prepared for that adventure just yet.
While I have you here I must mention another lost value. This one might get me crucified, not literally but figuratively, but I have to bring it up. That value is worship; specifically the whole worship experience: from the music to the message from the minister to the closing remarks. The value of worship in the church has changed from an opportunity to experience Jesus along with others in the faith and to learn and grow together, into a simple Christian themed concert and a semi biblical (oftentimes political/financial) pep talk. People have been placed or have obtained places and positions they were never meant to be in, because they are trained orators or people with a natural gift for speaking. They are leading churches with no passion, love, and, in effect, no real change or spiritual growth, even though the number of followers could suggest otherwise. Musicians and singers with talent but no relationship to the Gospel they are presenting are again performing/leading with no passion or change in what they’re doing. We are left with a pimping out a gospel of greed instead of the true Gospel of grace, love, hope, and good news. I read a story recently about all the churches closing in America and all the pastors throwing in the towel and quitting. People don’t need great speakers, you can get that in a Ted Talk, and we don’t necessarily need professional musicians. We can get that at a concert or on Spotify. We need genuine, raw, and real, not fake and rehearsed. I know not “all” churches, pastors, and musicians are in this example and maybe I’m wrong and you disagree with my assessment, but I know there is a faction of people that this resonates with, and that’s my audience. There are plenty of people that are tired of the fakey fake and the puff and stuff, and long for a true heartfelt experience with the Most High alongside a real faith family.
Tangent over, back to discarded values and the reason for this post. What is the one value from my past that I wish we could somehow recapture in our lives and again specifically the church? Love for your neighbor, not just your next-door neighbor or the couple you sit next to in church, but those you come in contact with on a daily basis even/especially in a virtual sense, those you may never meet face to face, those that differ from you, whether it be color, religion, gender, however. I believe, and Jesus said that you could hang all the law and the prophets on this thing: before you can love your neighbor, you have to love Him. He is love. Love comes from God. Love him with all your heart and you can’t help but to love your neighbor as yourself. We must reclaim the discarded value of loving one another!That’s what will bring change both in the church and the world.