(This is a somewhat revised post originally published in November 2019. I kind of like this one, and thought it was worth revisiting. I hope you enjoy it too.)
“Faith in antagonism to common sense is fanaticism, and common sense in antagonism to faith is rationalism. The life of faith brings the two into right relation.” (Oswald Chambers)
This is worth a thought or two, and even better, an application to the lives we live.
Having been a Christ-follower for 36 years, I’ve been involved with many communities and churches. I’ve led worship and/or taught and/or counseled God’s people in multiple settings. The Lord has enabled me to navigate in Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Vineyard, non-denominational, and a variety of charismatic streams of doctrine and practice, including a cult or two. I also spent 3 years studying in an evangelical seminary where I had wrestling matches at times with my classmates and professors about how to properly handle Scripture and how to lead in Christian discipleship.
All this exposure to diverse viewpoints within the church have required that I attend to Oswald’s wisdom stated above. Early on, most of those who had known me well before my conversion thought I had become a fanatical Christian. I went from being a hippie intellectual to suddenly subletting my cozy co-op apartment in New York City and venturing into the unknown as an evangelist. I wound up in west Texas of all places!
There was little of common sense involved in my decisions back then. I was in a wild romance with Jesus and it didn’t matter if it made sense to anyone. But because of my fanatical zeal, I wasn’t as effective a messenger of the gospel as I might have been. Ordinary people just trying to survive probably found me immature and off-putting, and I don’t blame them.
Then I began to pursue the appropriate developmental goals of people in their twenties. I found a husband. We had babies. We bought houses. We worked, we played, we worshiped, and we struggled at times, like most people do, with keeping it all going in the right direction. My husband and I became thoroughly responsible, reliable, sensible people.
I went to school to become a licensed counselor, and as the Lord would have it, I attended a very secular, clinical program. This turned out to be of great benefit to me, because at every turn I tested the theories and practices I was being taught against the revelations of the word of God. I kept a lot of stuff and discarded a lot of stuff from the realm of psychology and counseling. What remained after that reinforced a passionate and common-sense approach to the life of faith.
Faith is not simply mental assent to a particular set of ideas. Neither is it an other-worldly floating above the very real difficulties of being a human.
Faith is a way of life that allows for sublime mountaintop experiences and mundane everyday tests. It is the rebar that undergirds the road on which we travel. The life of faith is a life of experiencing the peace and joy of Jesus in all circumstances, especially in our suffering. It works just as well on cloudy days, rainy days, sunny days. It keeps us steady in the storm.
The steadiness provided by this “right relation” between faith and common sense is greatly needed in our chaotic contemporary life. We need people around who can think and feel deeply at the same time. I love the fact that I can be a fool for Christ and at the same time offer wisdom to others in their confusion or despair.
I’m by no means a rationalist. I don’t dare dismiss the supernatural in favor of science, and there is no good rationale for doing so. God doesn’t need my permission to perform miracles all around me. Please do, Lord.
But I also live in a place called reality, where people sin and suffer, use and abuse, divorce and die too soon, and I am called to minister to them where and how they are. Someone must remind them of the enduring hope that we share. Someone must clearly articulate the standard for disciples to live by and exhort and comfort when they fall short of it, which we all do. Sometimes I am the one who needs that exhortation and comfort, and I turn to trusted friends at those times.
All the while Jesus keeps calling us to him with great gentleness and love:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-29)
Doesn’t it make perfect sense to follow that call?