Silence and "isms" in the Christian Life

During this Season after Pentecost church teachings focus on living the Christian life. It is a good time to take a walk through the Outline of Faith (commonly called the Catechism) found on page 845 of the Book of Common Prayer. This is "Our Faith 101" which clearly states the theological teachings of our church.

I am often troubled by the "isms" I hear in church which seek to over-simplify the Christian life. An "ism" might be "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" out of the mouth of a person who does not appear to have contemplated how revolutionary a concept this is for humans. Or perhaps "love your neighbor as yourself" spoken in a sing-song voice by one who would mow down a neighbor on the other side of a particular vestry issue. Or the unrepentant, rather than turning to God, addressing other humans to justify and report "we are all sinners..."

Yes, we are all prone to "isms", aren't we? Somehow it makes living the Christian life seem simple and do-able. But if we look at what the Catechism says about how to treat others found on page 848, and if we meditate upon these words, we might be surprised at what it teaches:

What is our duty to our neighbors?

Our duty to our neighbors is to love them as ourselves, and to doto other people as we wish them to do to us;

To love, honor, and help our parents and family; to honor those inauthority, and to meet their just demands;

To show respect for the life God has given us; to work and prayfor peace; to bear no malice, prejudice, or hatred in our hearts; and tobe kind to all the creatures of God;

To use our bodily desires as God intended;

To be honest and fair in our dealings; to seek justice, freedom,and the necessities of life for all people; and to use our talents andpossessions as ones who must answer for them to God;

To speak the truth, and not to mislead others by our silence (emphasis added);

To resist temptations to envy, greed, and jealousy; to rejoice inother people's gifts and graces; and to do our duty for the love of God,who has called us into fellowship with him.

Perhaps I am most surprised to find that the Catechism addresses misleading others by our silence. Is this not a necessary element of hypocrisy? How many times do we pretend to agree with something in order to get along and be liked, only to turn our backs and say what we really believe? We all do this at some time or another, maybe because it is easier than learning to speak the truth in love; maybe because we do not want to be shoved to the edges by those with whom we do not agree. Or, as C. S. Lewis described in
The Inner Ring, we do not want to be tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. Maybe misleading others will get us something we want more than we want truth and integrity.

We all know that words can hurt. But may we ponder these precious words of the Catechism and meditate upon them so that we learn that our silences that allow others to be misled may be as hurtful as unkind words.

As seen above, Digital Painting by Jan Neal

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