The definition of clarity is “clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.” Clarity is something the folks in Congress and the Administration could use very large doses of right now. But clarity is something we all could use in large doses when our lives and circumstances are filled with anxiety or ambiguity. As Thomas Paine once said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Indeed, they are.
There is so much out there in today’s world that tells us that we should have a “positive mental attitude” no matter what happens to us. “Learned optimism” is another catch phrase that Wikipedia defines as “the idea in positive psychology that a talent for joy, like any other, can be cultivated. It is contrasted with learned helplessness. Learning optimism is done by consciously challenging any negative self talk.” For the Christian, the problem with these “options” are that they leave God totally out of the equation. And any time we spend more time talking to ourselves to psych ourselves up instead of depending on God we are sliding down a slippery slope. Over the years I’ve tried enough positive mental attitude and self talk to know that without God factored into our lives and circumstances and our very existence, they fall pretty flat and are unsustainable over time especially when the bottom falls out of our lives. And I’m not talking about including God in a shallow way if we do include Him, either. For example, Kenneth Lay, CEO of Enron Corporation, was considered a poster boy for “positive mental attitude” in the face of an American horror story surrounding the demise of Enron Corporation in Houston. A brief synopsis of the trial written at the time of his funeral indicates that he left a mixed legacy at best.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are those who keep a positive mental attitude.” No, He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). In fact, the entire Sermon on the Mount states to those who truly follow Christ exactly how they should be living and conducting their lives in three short chapters. But instead of reading the Sermon on the Mount, we run after authors who write about having a “positive mental attitude” or “learned optimism” or whatever the latest catch phrase is out there that tries to cover over the deep hurts and horrific circumstances that are a part of living in this world.
“Blessed are those who mourn….” We don’t seem to allow that kind of attitude in America anymore. We listen to the world’s philosophies on how to live and think and add them into the way we live and think and still call ourselves Christians. However, Christ makes it clear that we can’t have it both ways in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the ‘poor in spirit,’ ‘those who mourn,’ ‘the meek,’ ‘those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,’ ‘the merciful,’ ‘the pure in heart,’ ‘the peacemakers,’ and ‘those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.'” Doesn’t sound much like those attributes are a part of the American dream of most Christians. No, we want the good life. And when things are going good in our lives, we think it’s because we’ve captured the essence of keeping a positive mental attitude.
I’m not pointing a finger at anybody. If I was I’d have to point one back at myself. Life is hard and at times it is downright horrible, and as Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) said at the end of the movie “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” “Human beings, we gotta give them a break. We’re all just mixed bags.”
The opposite of clarity is confusion. When Christians add the world’s philosophies to Biblical principles, you get large doses of confusion. This is nothing new as it’s been going on since the times of the Israelites in the Old Testament. Why do you think there were so many prophets back then that warned them about turning from God to “other gods” in their lives? In today’s world “other gods” include “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” (I John 2:16). Pride gets all of us not to mention so does the love of money, love for power, love for recognition and a myriad of other “things” that push God out of our lives.
If you want clarity instead of confusion, read the Sermon on the Mount instead of the latest book to hit the best seller list. By the way, I do believe the Bible is still the best seller of all times. Too bad it goes unread by the majority of people who own a copy of it. My suggestion is to dust off the cover and start reading. Today would be a good time to start.
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