Thursday, January 08, 2009

In the Thick of It

I can remember many years ago having a discussion with a friend about opting out of Religious Education when they were in school. It is one of the few subjects in some school that is compulsory. Pupils don’t really have a choice about attending or not, unless their parents can produce a letter highlighting what the “religious” issue is. They are not allowed to opt out simply to dedicate more time to other subjects that they feel might be more valuable to them. They have to prove that what is being taught compromises their own religious values in some way.

There is a sense a which some parents feel that the beliefs of their children will come under attack if they study the theory of evolution when they have a creationist background, or how studying Islam is somehow going to confuse them, or convert them!

I am all for nurturing a person’s faith, but at some time or another their faith need to be tested. As much as a person needs to know why they believe the things that they believe, they also need to know why they reject the things that they don’t believe.

Some people live in a religious bubble. They bounce from church on a Sunday, to a prayer meeting or Bible study mid-week, a cup of coffee with a Christian friend…and they never really touch the yet-to-be-Christians.

I was reading in Exodus how as soon as Moses was weaned he went to live in the palace with the Pharoah’s daughter, surrounded by Egyptian culture, customs, religion and way of life.

God wanted his people out of Egypt but plunges his deliverer right into the centre of Egyptian life. Does He sit wringing his hands, worrying that Moses is buying into the whole Egyptian lifestyle? I don’t think he does. God knows that the gods of the Egyptians are just wood and stone. They don’t have any power. He also knows that somewhere down the line Moses is going to encounter the Living God in a burning bush. Whatever Moses might think about Ra and Seth and all the other gods, when he encounters the real thing, he will know who is real and who isn’t.

In the meantime works on developing the heart of His deliverer. Watching an Egyptian beating up a Hebrew slave leads Moses to take action. He even attempts to deliver one Hebrew from the violence of another. When he eventually leaves Egypt all together, his first act in the wilderness is one of deliverance – fighting off shepherds to protect a bunch of girls. Deliverance is in Moses’ DNA.

This whole opting-out thing, and religious-bubble thing is a lack of trust in ourselves that what we know and teach others is enough. Sometimes it is a lack of trust in our children. We don’t think they can discern truth from error – because we often can’t ourselves. Perhaps too, it is a lack of trust in God that the lure of the world is too powerful and God is too generous in giving us freedom, and that deep down we are really not sure that He will look after us.

Just think about Moses – in the thick of everything Egyptian, and yet he becomes the one person that God speaks to face to face.

No comments: