, Corbin, KY


July 16, 2012

Faith and bootstraps

CORBIN — I am sure we have had someone rush into our lane of traffic from a side street, only to have them slow down and poke along in front of us. The line of traffic backs up behind us. It is a small thing detaining perhaps a minute of our time. It is a big thing, however, when recognized as an opportunity to forgive and even pray for that slow-poke; a big thing to forgive and love as directed by the world’s most popular prayer taught by Jesus Christ.

Turning such a small aggravation into an inspiration is far from natural. It is SUPERNATURAL. It is Christianity in action. How we respond to the shortcomings of others (an inevitable daily encounter) says a lot about each of us. As impossible as pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, so is this forgiving, praying and loving our offenders by our own strength. Loving the unloving requires strength beyond us, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” [John 15:5].

Not open to or believing in any such supernatural presence and strength, many find religion and its prescriptions as not only impossible but silly. Religion, prayer and worship as prescribed by some of us “believers,” are often vacuum sealed within the four walls of our churches. Taking on supernatural behavior by God’s help, such as forgiving/loving offenders, the humanly impossible becomes possible. To step out in faith, no longer controlled by our instinctive selfish nature (being able to love those who harm us as well as those who help us), requires belief in God’s power and presence.

Lip-worship/service is easy and cheap. Allowing God to be the Lord of our lives beyond the church walls is where the rubber meets the road. Often we “believers” are not noticeably different from anyone else, blending our ways into theirs. Influenced by those with whom we associate is an absolute truism. “Believers” not believing in their association with God, not enjoying the presence of Divine strength, are prone to be swept away by the swift current of the people surrounding them. Hence many of us church-goers are not God-goers. We may be crowd-goers, readily following what most people do. Such church membership could define us as little more than a façade — waving the banner, “I’M A GOOD GUY” for all to see.

“Our citizenship is in heaven.” [Phil. 3:20]. “You are a chosen people, a Holy nation and a people belonging to God… I urge you, as aliens, to abstain from sin.” [1Peter 2: 9, 11].

Joyfully serving the earth and all its people is our privilege and duty; yet all the while living faithfully in God’s presence and Kingdom… as Jesus instructs, “thy Kingdom come… on earth as in heaven.” [Mt. 6:10].

May we practice our faith and stop the frustration of pulling our boot straps.

The Rev. John D. Burkhart, Ph.D. is a retired Episcopal priest and a retired professor of psychology. Email:

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