Have You Been Raised Right?

I’m Just Saying…

I was recently introduced to a book by Ferrol Sams titled The Whisper of the River.  It is a story about a young boy, reared in Georgia, as a part of the Southern Baptist tradition.  In the book Sam speaks about being “Raised Right.” He says:

 The child who had been Raised Right was not only Saved but had spent a large part of his formative years in the House of the Lord.  Attendance at piano recitals did not count, but everything else did.  From Sunbeams through BYPU, from Sunday school to prayer meeting, from Those Attending Preaching to Those With Prepared Lessons, everything was counted.  So was everybody.  In the midst of all this score-keeping, the concept of being saved by grace was a nebulous and adult bit of foolishness not to be contemplated with anything approaching the fervor accorded perfect attendance.  A pin with added yearly bars swinging like a sandwich sign on an adolescent chest proclaimed indisputably to the world that its wearer had been Raised Right.

 Does this sound familiar to any of you?  Do you ever fear that you have a form of religion devoid of any true spiritual power?  Have you replaced genuine faith with religious tradition?  Have you substituted salvation by grace through faith with a process of being Raised Right?  Are you more concerned with appearing religious than with actually worshipping the Triune God?

Maybe these are not issues for you…but I find myself asking these questions a a fair amount these days.

If we are not careful we will begin to believe the lie that image is everything.  Though it sounds like a contradiction in terms, pretense can become second nature.  We get used to acting concerned, behaving like a friend, and sounding kind and gentle.  It is so easy to fall into the trap of the Pharisees, to become more concerned with our reputation than life lived out of the abundance of Abba’s love and the Spirit’s lifesource.  It’s so easy to call Jesus Lord while never knowing him as LIFE.

Harriet Beecher Stowe once wrote that she had been to a party where everyone seemed to have left themselves at home.  Sometimes our churches feel like that—like everyone left themselves at home.  We can act so nice, like people meeting our in-laws for the first time.  We end up feeling like a collection of mirrors, reflecting what everyone else expects of us.  At our worst we become mere performers acting the way they assume Christians are suppose to act.   

With Christ’s help, we can live genuinely. We can move beyond old habits to a new way of following Christ.  And as Christ leads us to new life, he will bring life to our old traditions.  Our traditions without Christ are like a tea bag without water.  Something crucial is missing.  But when authentic faith is added the practices of faith lead to life.  Worship becomes a means by which God touches our hearts.  Studying the Bible becomes an avenue by which we hear God’s voice.  The best rules become a map to the good life.  Learning about God leads us to serve with God. 

Let me tell you something: Lives meant to look Christian pale when compared to lives through which Jesus is living.  We do not need to judge ourselves by what others think, we can know God’s grace.  We do not need to impersonate caring people, we can genuinely love.  We do not need to play the role of nice churchgoers, we can live for Jesus.  We do not have to be insincere; by Abba’s grace we  can be real.

 To be real we must allow ourselves to be connected to the only completely genuine person who ever lived.  We are not called to sinless perfection, but we are called to singleness of heart.  God delivers us from the tyranny of tired hypocrisy and leads us to life in the spirit.

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