Occasionally I get criticized for being less public about my faith than others. This criticism always strikes me as odd because I’ve written six or seven books largely about faith, but nevertheless, I understand where it’s coming from.
Many are willing to take public stands on issues, tweet daily scriptures, chime in on wide church arguments and so forth. I normally don’t, and that can at times seem as though I’m not willing to publicly identify my faith as loudly.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is, I think a public display of faith is fine and honors God unless that public display is really about generating a certain reputation in a religious community.
Many of us who grew up in the church understand how this works. People who are the most zealous often rise to the top in the small sub-culture of evangelicalism, especially in the microcosm of a given church.
But moderation about such outward displays should be governed by scripture itself.
Here is what Jesus says on the issue in the book of Matthew:
“Be especially careful when you are trying to do good so that you don’t make a performance out of it.”
“When you do something good for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure – playactors I call them – treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds.”
“When you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom.”
Again, these aren’t the words of a preacher or a Christian writer, these are the words of Christ. (Matthew 6)
The reality is, Jesus doesn’t need for us to put on a show. He doesn’t need for us to kneel in the end zone, engage in controlling conversations or argue theology over twitter.
Instead, there is power in quiet, private spirituality. If we want to see change, we can pray, and we can have one-on-one conversations. When we switch from a loud, showy public faith to a private, quiet faith we will find God begins to work and we don’t have to work as hard.
This is a tough topic because it’s all about motives. Who am I to say whether somebody is sincere? I can’t. But God can. And He knows our hearts better than we do.
For me, I don’t want to make a show of my faith. I believe it’s a sin and in direct disobedience to Christ. If I were a football prayer, I would not pray in the endzone. I’d pray before and after the game, or perhaps with other players. But I see a real problem with making a public show of faith.
So here’s a challenge: Try going one month practicing your faith in relative privacy. If you meet somebody you want to help, help them in secret. Rather than arguing, simply pray. Rather than fighting, pray for justice. And don’t tell anybody you’re doing it. Keep a journal and see what happens. My guess is you’ll get more “work done” for the kingdom by trusting it actually exists than a person does who trades on the values of God’s kingdom as social commodity.
We know this: God honors sincerity. He honors truth. Why tempt ourselves to have false motives? Let’s remove ourselves from those temptations just as we would any other sin.
So where is the line for you? What’s the difference between a religious show and practicing your faith in community?