The last time I was physically in a Christian book store was at least 10+ years ago I think. There are many reasons for that but the biggest one is that even at that time, there was so much trash in there masquerading as Christian literature it just made me feel physically ill. I was there at that time because there was a specific book my husband wanted and by the time he told me about it I knew it would never arrive in time for his birthday, if I ordered it online. So the kids and I went into the bookstore to find it. We did find it, thankfully, but the other things I saw on the shelves were so appalling to me I wondered how the store stayed in business. Mostly what made me feel ill were all the books that screamed from the shelves more information about self-help and feeling powerful, making money and getting recognition, than about repentance and faithfully serving God with a humble heart.
Then in the "devotionals" section I saw so many categories it made my head spin. There were devotionals for parents, parents of toddlers, parents of teens, teens and toddlers themselves, (nope, not making that up, devotionals just for toddlers) single people, engaged people, just for men, just for women, just for divorced women, and on and on the categories went. There were so many others but I don't even remember what they were, I just remember that it was an entire section of the store dedicated to people who profess faith in Christ but want to be spoken to through a particular lens, first. It kind of blew me away and I didn't even know why at the time it bothered me so much I just knew it did. So I thought about it, talked to some Christian friends about it, and have really mulled it over, over the years.
It's not that I have anything against seeking wisdom from the Scriptures that speak directly to particular and specific situations (such as widows) because truth be told I've done it myself. When I became a widow at 30 years old I needed serious help and I searched the Scriptures for that help and I'm really glad I did because it was a soothing balm to me at the time. But at the end of the day it all seemed incredibly narrow-minded and shortsighted on my part because Scripture has a lot more to say on how we, the body, are to treat particular situations than anything else. Even as a widow, I came away with more understanding on how I was to treat such a woman, than how I was to be treated.
Which brings me to lenses, and how we define ourselves, and see ourselves. I somewhat jokingly mentioned in reference to this subject tonight on FB that if you have a lens filter on the view of yourself through Scripture, it may be time for an eye appointment.
Every single Christian wears a multitude of hats that defines our roles in life and our identities - as in who we are. From child, to spouse, parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, boss, employee, grand parent etc. In fact, the more you think about it, the more hats or roles I'm sure you can come up with in your own personal situation. I could include in my own identity "married, white, extraordinarly clumsy, American, over-weight, middle aged" and more. But I don't bother because through the lens of Scripture, none of that matters to me and it most certainly doesn't matter to God. First and foremost I see myself as a child of God, saved by grace. Every day, everything I do, everything I say, every opinion I have on whatever is going on in my home, in the local schools, in our social settings, politics or in the world in general, is filtered through my Christian identity and my Biblical worldview.
Which actually brings me to the entire point of this post. Not all professing Christians see themselves this way, and this is a genuine problem on multiple levels because in some cases it actually feeds an ongoing, festering issue that divides society in general and the church specifically. My dear friend James shared his response to an article that makes my point crystal clear as to what the real problem is.
When you profess faith in Christ and call yourself a believer, but emphatically define yourself through the race-first lens (or any other lens, for that matter) you're putting God's grace into a subordinate category and exalting your agenda, or cause, or race, or gender or whatever it happens to be into the #1 spot of how you're defining or seeing yourself. This is truly dangerous ground and serves to do nothing but divide the body. Something Scripture speaks directly against doing.
I think one of the most dangerous things about seeing yourself through cultural, racial, gender or circumstantial specific lens, is that you not only miss what the Scriptures have to say in context, but that you miss the conviction of these teachings because that's not your focus. You're not looking for it and your heart isn't prepared to receive it. Instead of consulting His word to guide your heart and thoughts, you're consulting His word to guide your agenda. You have to ignore a lot of Scripture, skimming over it and only picking out things here and there that will fit with the lens you've applied and appear to support the identity you're seeing yourself as. Very dangerous ground indeed.
If you're not seeing yourself first as a child of God saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He's not #1 in your heart. It's that simple, and that awful.This isn't a popular thing to say but it is a Biblical thing to say. Each person has to ask themselves what comes #1 in their heart.