Wearing Our Faith

Here in southwest Mississippi, life came to a standstill twice in the past three days. First, there was the NFL playoff game of the New Orleans Saints v. Detroit Lions. Then, on Monday evening, the LSU faced Alabama in the college championship. Football was more than just the talk around town. It was the subject of Facebook news feeds, twitter accounts, and the local newspaper. But the stories that have intrigued me recently revolve one football player who is easily 1,000 miles from the Mississippi River: Tim Tebow.

Since his college days at the University of Florida, Tebow has been very vocal about his beliefs. He appeared in an ad for Focus on the Family. He prays after touchdowns. He paints "John 3:16" on his face. Some people react by praising him. Others criticize. I could easily do a little of both, but I'd rather focus on that image of "John 316" painted on his face. How do we wear our faith, or is faith even something that we should "wear?"

When I was working as a chaplain during seminary, the hospital where I served had a rule in its interfaith system. We were not to wear any religious symbols. My favorite cross necklace had to hide under my shirt for three months, and I was not happy. I told a friend that I thought it was unfair that I couldn't wear the symbol of my faith. I understood the reasoning behind the policy, but I still didn't like it. This wise friend told me, "You have to show God's love through your actions and not what you wear." It was a simple statement that I'd heard in church for years. But I understood it in a new light. I had looked to the cross necklace to identify myself as a Christian instead of allowing my heart & actions to reveal that love to my patients.

Micah 3:6-8 reminds us that God does not desire outward displays of affection like "burnt sacrifices" and "oil" and "rams." Instead, what God cares most about is heart after God that leads to us "doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God." Faith is not what we wear; it's what we live. What we should not ask is whether Tim Tebow is right or wrong in his actions. It's fine to wear the cross necklaces and to share our favorite Scriptures in creative ways. But does that outward sign point reflect a heart turned towards God? Let us be a people who live the Life of Light.

grace, peace, hope, and all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian