Sounds like a bad movie, doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered why our attitudes toward our loved ones, money, work, etc. waffle between joy and depression, caring and demanding? The problem lies in our ‘theology’ of expectations, and it’s a tug of war that we can not win.
All of us are theologians. We constantly interpret the events around us and put our faith in beliefs, especially beliefs about our value, purpose, & resources for life. Instead of basing our expectations in God’s truth, however, we build theologies based on our desires. Admittedly, because we’re in God’s image, our instincts do have some validity. But we’re also sinful, so personal beliefs are never enough.
Consider the late, incredible performer Michael Jackson. He seems to have believed that his value was based in his image. He even submitted himself to disfiguring plastic surgeries. Other people purpose to live off parents, the G.I. bill, and unemployment to avoid responsibility as long as possible. They believe they’re on easy street, but their selfishness actually works against them in every potential relationship. In the children’s story, an Emperor looked to whoever could make the best clothes for him. But his greed so blinded him that he trusted in their foolish resources and ended up showing his flesh in more ways than one!
These examples may be extremes, but they illustrate the traps that we fall into when we trust in our beliefs alone. We seem to know that there’s something valuable about Man, because we were created in God’s image. Our spirit convinces us of others’ value like our nose convinces us of delicious food. On the other hand, we know there’s something very ugly about Man.
We have laws for repeat offenders and companies that make anti-depressants because we expect trouble. So do we deserve to have confidence and respect or pity parties and rejection? What is Man’s true value? Personal beliefs can not say. Only God knows.
We run into the same problem in our pursuit of purpose. We feel more fulfilled when we’re accomplishing something, because (whether we know it or not) God created us to do good works. But, again, we are both wonderful and warped. Every day, we perform “good” works – some that are good for others and some that are good for us at others’ expense.
Personal accomplishments are certainly part of God’s will, but which goals should we pursue? Our desires are like the wind: too strong and too fickle to trust. Would any skilled sailor allow the wind to set his course? It makes about as much sense to allow personal preferences or easy success to decide our course. Wise travelers use a standard. We need the theological map of God’s Word if we’re ever to know our true purpose.
As you might expect, this inner turmoil of being in God’s image, yet fallen in sin also confuses our choice of resources. God created us primarily as spiritual beings. That’s why our true identity doesn’t change with age, alterations (sorry, Michael), or even radical amputations. But we tend to neglect or distort the spiritual.
When we have sex without love, it’s a spiritual problem. Parenting in anger, investing on mystical advice, working out of fear, etc. are spiritual issues. A healthy spirit is fundamental to excellence, but only God can say where to look and what to do with the spiritual resources that He has for us. Personal theologies are the bomb factories where our “mines” are formed: “control should be ‘mine'”, “recognition should be ‘mine'”, and on and on. Our desires may have been shaped by our families, traumatic events, or culture, but we’ve chosen our personal beliefs to try to explain or justify our world. Only by resting in God’s truth can we actually deal with the issues under the surface.
Every one who follow Christ by faith needs to know that their value is in God’s covenantal grace (His unconditional love paid for by Jesus’ sacrifice), that His purpose for us is to do good works as part of His Body (the Church), and that our resource is Jesus Himself. But if you’re going to truly rest in God’s truths, you need to see them for yourself in His Word. For more on biblical theology, you can read other posts in the series “Theology Thursdays” in the menu above.
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