When What You Believe Isn’t What Others Believe

I remember once in my college days at a large state university being offered a reefer. I had never been offered marijuana before, never even seen it, but I knew it was against the law (1973) to smoke it, so I responded with the first thing that came into my head. “No, thanks! I’m Baptist!”

Kinda lame. Kinda stupid. It did, however, come off as funny to the two guys down my dorm hallway who proceeded to inhale deeply. I encountered several situations like that where what I believed– my convictions– were not on the same page as most of those around me.

Being a follower of Jesus came with certain beliefs and leadings. Some of those beliefs were deeply rooted in the culture of my church, such as abstaining from the consumption of alcohol except for medicinal purposes. Other leadings were the result of how I sensed God was speaking to me. It might even be described as the rumblings of the Holy Spirit within me.

I can not argue that some of my decisions back in those growing up days were simply the result of wanting to be a good little Baptist boy. I no longer believe that a drop of alcohol on my lips is a sign that I’m descending the staircase into eternal darkness, although I’d still rather have an A&W Root Beer than I would a beer on tap. I do, however, see the chaos that the overconsumption of alcohol can create.

The quandary that many Jesus-followers face in these days of cultural turmoil is what to do when belief goes against what our culture now holds as the standard? You see, it’s often easier to go with the flow instead of being a Christ-follower. Like Peter, who denied knowing Jesus in those moments when he yielded to the popular view of the moment, a follower of Jesus encounters those occasions where his beliefs rub up like sandpaper with what he’s expected to believe or do.

As corporations and organizations take on certain positions that are uncomfortable to a person of faith the reaction can be adamant protest, surrender to the popular position, or somewhere in the middle. “The Middle”, in many situations, is the place where a person’s faith can be communicated while promoting opportunities for dialogue. It’s the conversational table where, as a Christ-follower, I can say “I hear what is being conveyed as the position, but my belief system is anchored to a different source of truth. In fact, there’s a scripture verse that says He is the Truth. I know that isn’t the accepted view of many, but it’s at my core. If you try to cut out what is at my core you leave me hollow and double-minded.”

Does the Holy Spirit lead someone else to a different position than me? Sometimes, yes. Do I understand why? Not very often. Am I open to my mind being changed? Yes and maybe. For instance, even though cannabis is now legal in Colorado does not mean that I believe in its recreational use. On the other hand, it does have medicinal qualities that can not be overlooked. Am I compromising my beliefs in seeing its value in that way? No, but if those two guys from years ago offered me a reefer again today I’d still say no. I just wouldn’t add the tagline, “I’m a Baptist.”

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