Culture or Love of God – Which constrains me?

This is the first draft of a column for the Newberry Observer. I rewrote it to be less direct for the paper but felt I wanted to have my “full-say” here.

Culture or Love of God – Which constrains me?

When Mr. Jimmy prayed in church on Sunday I got stuck on his first phrase and, I admit I didn’t hear much else he said. He started like this. “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the privilege of coming to you today.” 

Privilege. He said privilege. 

I am a PK. That means preacher’s kid to those of you who don’t know and since this is the Bible Belt that’s probably not many. My Daddy is a Baptist minister and has been most of my life. In fact he was in Seminary when I was born and is still going strong. 

 I love church. My week is not complete if I don’t go to church Sunday Morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening. Call me weird but that is who I am. That is my culture. 

Because of that I feel comfortable here in the South. Out West people are more private about their faith. They don’t speak as freely about their church affiliations. When you pray in a restaurant you stand out, you are conspicuous. Not here. Here, there is nothing unusual about a table full of people bowing their heads to pray before eating their meal at Ronnie’s. 

Jesus is a big part of the culture in the South and I love it 

However, I have to wonder sometimes if that’s all it is to us. A part of our culture.  That’s why my mind got stuck on the word “privilege”. I’m so blessed to know it is my privilege to come to God, to attend church. But do I look at it as a privilege? Am I attending church for the right reasons? I’m sure God is pleased that I am there, regardless of my motives, but am I receiving the full blessing I could? These are some questions I ask myself. 

After the prayer, I pulled myself together and listened as Pastor Clark preached on the Love of God. He spoke of the truth that it is the Love of God that constrains us. 

 Ah, there is the answer. Church attendance shouldn’t be because it is my culture. It should be simply because God loves me and that love is so powerful, so overwhelming that I can’t wait to get there. 

It’s like when I am going home to South Dakota to see my family. I can’t wait for that plane to land or the car to travel those last hundred miles. I go every chance I get. I make sacrifices so that I can go. If I don’t go often enough I become unhappy. (My husband might even use the word crabby.) The love for my family constrains me to go. There would be something wrong if I went simply because it was my culture.

That’s what bothered me when Mr. Jimmy prayed. The Love of God should constrain me, not the Culture to which I was born. After all, as a child of the living God it is my privilege to be in church.

It’s something to think about, isn’t it?

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