When I was in high school, I lived in a pretty small town, and a few of the roads in and out of town were not paved. Driving on unpaved roads takes some getting used to in any situation, but after some pretty hard rainfall, when the rain erodes huge ruts into the road, you definitely have to be careful not to drive through those deep ruts. If you do, it’s very likely that you’ll high-center your vehicle and be stuck. If you are familiar with dirt roads like this, you will usually notice sets of tracks marking the routes that other people have taken to avoid the deep ruts, or at least the roughest parts of the road. So, there are usually several different sets of ruts on a dirt road, some bigger than others.
In my Bible study today, it talked about praying in the Spirit as well as praying with the mind. The basis for the lesson was 1 Corinthians 14:15, where Paul writes “I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also” (NASB). The lesson was great, but as usual, my mind wondered off into thinking about other things that were surely related, but not altogether the same topic as the lesson itself. The topic I thought most about was the different interpretations of what being filled with the Spirit truly is. I have a diverse background, as far as Christian denominations go, and I’ve attended churches that were as staunch as a bump on a log, and I’ve attended churches that were as charismatic as a rock concert. I’ve sang hymns from hymnals, and I watched as hundreds of others were “slain in the Spirit” all around me. Different people definitely have different views about what being filled with the Spirit entails, and how it manifests itself inside of us. And if you talk to the different sides of this matter, you’ll find that they disagree greatly about how the other interprets this, Biblically.
I will immediately point out that this post is not attempting to argue one way or the other on this point (it’s been argued for years and years – one more blog post arguing isn’t going to help). What I realized as I thought about this is that we, as Christians, all have issues, big and small, that are important to us. And these issues are a lot like ruts in a road – once you fall into the rut, it’s not easy to pull yourself back out it. You tend to stay on that track until either you are forced off (i.e., you are proved wrong), or until another seemingly more important issue comes around.
I know I have spent a lot of my Christian life doing just this. I find an issue that seems important, and I fall into that rut. I study it, I argue it, and I spend a lot of time in thought about it. The problem is not that I am passionate about the issue – passion is wonderful! The problem is that when I’m in this rut, I’m no longer focusing on what is truly important. I am placing my passion in the issue, and therefore taking my passion away from my zeal for God and the things of His kingdom. I think I am still focused on His kingdom, because the issue is related to faith in some way, but in all honesty, I’m not. I’m stuck in the wrong rut. I’m stuck in a tiny little rut over here on the side, that is really quite inconsequential in the scheme of things.
One such rut I’ve been caught up in before is the creation vs. evolution debate. I minored in biology in college, spent 5 years as a middle school science teacher, and I’m an all-around science-enthusiast. So it naturally fit that I would be interested in the crossroads of science and faith, which are very much centered in this debate. I read books about it, watched speakers and documentaries about it, and studied up on it a lot myself. I was extremely interested, but during that time, I did very little to improve my relationship with God. I didn’t bear a lot of spiritual fruit, beyond perhaps those that could be seen in my attitude. That issue took my attention off of what was truly important.
Another issue I have seen people get stuck in is the “speaking in tongues” issue. I went with a friend of mine when he preached at a local church one Sunday night when we were in college. After the service, a couple of guys came up and just point-blank asked him “have you ever spoken in tongues?” It turns out, they didn’t believe you were truly saved unless you had spoken in tongues. It served as a spiritual sign to them of someone’s salvation. Unfortunately, this was more important to them than anything else. I think they were caught in a rut – the wrong rut.
I don’t believe being passionate about an issue of spiritual importance is a bad thing. I think we need to dive in to some of these ruts sometimes and get our hands dirty, because pursuing truth is always admirable and a worthy thing to do. But I also think that we have to know when to get out and jump in a different rut. And we have to focus on what is truly important above all else. If we don’t, we’ll spend to much time arguing over minute details, all while the world is watching and shaking their heads.
In John 17:20-21, Jesus prays for the unity of his future followers: “…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Getting stuck in the wrong rut doesn’t lead to unity – it leads to conflict over things that don’t even matter. If we want the world to believe that God sent His son, we must be unified
What ruts can you identify that Christians tend to fall into, taking their focus off of what truly matters?