Thursday, November 28, 2019

Alone with God

Blogging, which I used to do a lot, is not social media, at least not in the way we think of social media in the mid to late 2010s. Blogging is a more solitary pursuit. At least that's true in my case. It's been almost a decade since I turned to blogging as a way of interacting with others. It was, back in the day, far more social than the once a month columns I would write as a parish pastor. It would get out to the people quicker, more people could theoretically read it, and, most importantly for me, people could comment!

As I was up jotting that previous paragraph before 3 AM this morning, and now as I resume writing shortly after 7, I know it's challenging for me to write alone. And not only writing. It's hard to do much of anything alone. That's not to say that I don't. I do. But it's easier for me to do "whatever," that is, something that is worthwhile (Colossians 3:17) if I think there's some kind of community out there that might notice, even if after the fact, even if they really don't care what I'm doing or might even laugh disparagingly. That might be strange, but it's true.

Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, addresses this in the Sermon on the Mount. Two of the "whatever you dos" mentioned there are prayer and fasting. Another is giving to those in need. Jesus begins this section by telling to avoid doing those good things so that others will notice. When you give to those in need, says Jesus, do it quietly. When you pray, do it in secret. When you choose not to eat (when you "fast"), don't let others know. Why? I don't think it's because God wants us to always be alone when you do good things. The warning, in Matthew 6, is against the temptation to put on a show for others. If that's what you're doing, if that's your purpose, God isn't involved. It's just public relations. It's just seeking attention. It's not "real." It's a show.

I don't think this is just about giving or praying or fasting. I think the principle can be applied to any good thing you or I do. If we're doing it for show, or to build up our reputation, then it's not really a positive thing in terms of our "soul" or our life with God. But I don't think it means we should always be doing everything spiritually good in private. The scripture story of Jesus, for example, makes it clear that others noticed when he would get up early to spend time with his Father. On Jesus last evening before his trial and execution he asked his disciples to stay awake and not too far away while he prayed. And Jesus' teaching prayer, the "Our Father," assumes a community of pray-ers. So the point isn't to be completely alone. Just don't do it to show off.

Personally I appreciate the encouragement of others. There are many other places in scripture, at least in the New Testament, where we're told to encourage and warn others in various ways. (It'd probably be good if I'd cite examples but I'll skip that because I still haven't gotten to my main point.) If spiritual life was intended to be entirely private there'd be no way we could know when encouragement or admonition was needed, and we'd never receive it when we were the most in need. And I need it because on my own I lose energy for my spiritual life, and any of the semi-spiritual good things that would be good for me to do.

I think blogging is one of those things that are good. There are lots of other things too. And though this is not "in secret," it's not in a place where very many people see it. I'll say that's okay because just doing the work, with the Lord, gets me into His Word and spending this personal time with Him.

That's enough for now.

Have a good night. It's 9 PM now.

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