Recently, I read a short journal entry from Ralph Waldo Emerson and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind:
Life consists in what a man is thinking about all day.
I believe that. I believe it’s absolutely true. If my life doesn't look like God's (Love), it's a reflection of where my mind really is, no matter what I claim to be true about myself. My life consists in what I am thinking about all day. The same applies to a church.
This emphasis on thought is why myself and so many believers shouldn’t rush into publicly identifying ourselves as Christians: our minds are not thinking about what Jesus thought about. We’re still thinking about ourselves. Our faith is really centered on making ourselves better: more successful, more admirable, more in control, and more loved. It is not focused on relationship with God, like Jesus’ was. This produces anxiety. Anxiety is proof of where our minds really are; what or who they really belong to.
Anxiety is a definitive characteristic exposing a faith of Churchianity (a culture centered on church rather than Christ), as opposed to Christianity (the faith Jesus exemplified and taught). We find so many excuses for living anxiously. Money is a biggie. I know quite a few pastors who use the government to excuse themselves to live, speak, behave, and “status update” anxiously. I feel a new anxiety within myself to provide now that I am a parent. I can even feel anxious about not being loving enough! How silly is that? As if worrying about it will cover my family in more love? At the heart of it, my anxiety has everything to do with control and nothing to do with Love. But I want to be about Love.
I tell you, do not worry. Don’t worry about your life and what you will eat or drink. And don’t worry about your body and what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than eating? Aren’t there more important things for the body than clothes? … So don’t worry.
– Jesus, Matthew 6.25, 31
That language is the mark of Christianity. Yet, it sounds so foreign to how most Christians and churches talk. So many function with the motivation of anxiety and don’t think twice about it. We especially excuse anxiety when it’s in the name of church. This manipulative compromise corrupts our hearts, faith, and peace.
We worry about money. We worry about clothing. We worry about politics. We worry about the youth. We worry. But Jesus asked us, “Can you add even one hour to your life [or anyone else’s] by worrying?” Can worry free you? We attempt to use God to heal our anxieties in the most vain ways. Like a medicine that represses cold symptoms without providing any real healing. This is not Christianity. Instead, anxiety should be to us like an alarm. The emotion of anxiety should ring out in our hearts and minds like a warning siren reminding us to return!
The Lord Yahweh said, “In returning and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength.”
– Isaiah 30.15
How do we do this though? We identify with our anxieties so much that when Christ says, “Don’t be anxious,” it’s like telling you to produce a different color of hair out of your head. “But I am anxious, Jesus!” we exclaim. We have to return to the Reality that we actually aren’t our feelings. We aren’t even our minds. We are made in God’s image, so we are inherently Love. This is why anxiety does so much literal damage to our bodies, minds, and hearts; we weren’t built for it. It is opposed to who we really are; who Christ leads us all to be.
Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things. … The God who gives peace will be with you.
– Philippians 4.8/9