The video invites us to take a deeper look at the authenticity of our faith. Ryan is living a life of severe inconsistency. He tells us a testimony about his life as a “Christian”.
Yet we see that his relationship with God is almost non-existent. Nothing in his heart has truly been changed by his self-proclaimed, “acceptance” of Christ as his, “Lord and savior”.
So what has happened to Ryan? Is there something wrong with him or is there something wrong with the way he has incorporated his faith?
If we begin to look within our hearts, we probably find similarities to Ryan’s predicament. We may struggle to find a desire within us to really die to self, for love of Christ, as he asked us to. We may have some ambiguity as to whether God has really transformed our lives. If this is the case, then what did we do wrong?
We all want to live a full and deeply meaningful life, and we know that Christ promised us this. If we aren’t experiencing Jesus working in our hearts… there must be a disconnect.
Let’s first affirm that Christ’s power to heal, to save, to give life, is real. We have to have faith though, as he said in Mk 5:34 “Daughter, your faith has healed you…”. If we can take that leap of faith, he will work in our lives. Yet, sometimes this is easier said than done. Our desire to believe, and our success at actually incorporating faith into our lives, can be an animal of a different color. Every Christian on earth experiences some inconsistency in desiring a great faith in Christ, and transferring that desire into an authentic life with him. We profess Christ’s divinity, and we desire to do well by God’s teachings, yet, frequently we experience an attraction to evil. This attraction to sin is what the Church calls concupiscence, and it is nothing new. Acknowledging it is a role in our lives is a necessary step for any Christian trying to grow in virtue.
What happens though… when this attraction goes unchecked, when we don’t acknowledge it, and fail to realize how it is pulling us away from God’s plan? Well, we may end up like Ryan, with a hollow faith. Our relationship with God disintegrates, until all that is left is a masquerade. God warns us against this in scripture, when in Rev 3:16 he says, “(if) you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”… “Being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways”, Ryan suffers from his incoherent lifestyle. (James 1:8)
There is a phenomenon arising, in which Christians are experiencing this natural in-coherency but are failing to recognize that it is incoherent! Worse still, some individuals acknowledge that they are living incoherently, but lack a desire to eradicate the rupture. Some have called this phenomenon,”functional agnosticism”, and it is alarmingly prevalent in Christian circles. The title is somewhat self descriptive, but it refers to those who may go to church, call themselves Christian, and yet, there is no noticeable evidence in the way they act to support this claim, except perhaps the time they spend in a pew.
For example, a functional agnostic may say, “I am a Christian”, yet they talk, act, and carry themselves in such a way to make you think you’re in a bar downtown. This is not to say that Christians are better than people in bars, or that Christians shouldn’t enjoy themselves, but if someone claims that the message of the gospel is true … one would expect this to be evident in the way that they interact with those around them. As Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”… And again St. Francis says, “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.”
Now, one might wonder how it is possible for a rational being to believe something that has such radical implications as Christianity, and not change at all in accordance with said implications. The reasons can be numerous, but two in particular come to mind.
1. One may lack the faith in the power of Christ to transform their hearts and families, and instead… only rely on the benefits which can tangibly be seen, such as; a community, a moral code, supportive or comforting words, and whatever else they enjoy about living within Christian circles.
2. Through distractions, concupiscence, and a lack of self awareness… one begins to live incoherently.
Someone who has slipped into functional agnosticism is not a bad person, nor are they unusual, rather, they are a result of an increasingly secular society and a lack of fraternal correction amongst Christians. Just imagine… if everyone of the billion plus Catholics in the world, were as fervent and sincere as the first thirty or so, who suffered persecution in bronze age Rome, 2000 years ago. We might see a global conversion before the year is out.
This is a tall order, but it is possible. And to decide to live authentically does not imply that you will never sin again, but simply that you will never cease in trying to eliminate sin from your life. Luckily it is the season of advent, and it is a time to ask Christ into our hearts as we celebrate the memory of his arrival into the world.
With loving guidance for one another, we will all come closer to achieving a truly authentic, and fulfilled life in Christ. The only way to actively and effectively combat the influences of the world, and functional agnosticism, is through radical love. How radical? So radical that by witnessing your love, people know you are a disciple of Christ. Some things to keep in mind…
– Authentic and coherent witness of our faith to those around us.
– Frequent prayer for strength and guidance to all those who proclaim the Christian name.
– Be open and transparent about where we are in our relationship with God, no matter where we are… being honest about it is the only way we can grow. Often times, if it is an issue with a teaching, it is a simple misunderstanding. Maybe you are dealing with a painful experience… either way, I would bet your friends in Christ are happy to help. The bottom line is… we can’t truly love one another if we don’t really understand one another.
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