Monday, January 20, 2014

Silence is a Sin

To be authentically human we have to praise God.

Why? Because we can recognize and admire his work in the things he has made. If we don’t, we fall short of being human. But we don’t “realize” what we see until we express it in praise.

To “fall short” or “miss” (‘amartia) is the Scriptural word for sin. Paul attributes it to those who do not praise and thank God:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:19).

We cannot judge the victims of our distorted culture for being blind. They have been educated by blind guides. But we can blame ourselves if we, who do know God, do not give evidence of it in praise. Isaiah says that makes us worse than animals:

Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.[1]

If we praised God we would understand. What we praise, we will appreciate. What we do not praise, we will not appreciate. What difference is there between those who are silent about God and those “who have forsaken the Lord, who have despised the Holy One of Israel, who are utterly estranged!”?

There is a difference, but it may not last long. How long will we keep seeing in church the people – especially the young – who stand silent and disengaged while the assembly is praising God? What does it say about them that they will not sing:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14).
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.

To deny praise is to douse appreciation. To keep denying it is to risk losing the faith.

What we do not express, we will not experience. If we do not express our faith, our hope, our love, we will not experience them. The next step is to stop going to church because it does not give us any “experience of God.”

No church can “give us” the experience of God. The word “church” means “assembly.” Believers “assemble” to praise and thank God. To express the appreciation for God that they have through both reason and faith. But what we do not express, we will not experience. The obstacle is in us. And it is a deliberate choice.

What assembling with others in church gives us (among other things) is the opportunity to express ourselves. To express the admiration, the appreciation, the gratitude we have for God because of our faith-enlightened understanding. It lets us express what our “secular” culture discourages us from expressing in public.

According to Cassell”s Latin Dictionary, “secular” comes from saeculum, which refers to the time-span of “one human generation.” “Secularism” confines us to our particular culture’s narrow perception of what belongs to the time and space of this earth and forbids us to speak of anything beyond it. But when Christians gather to worship, we are free to express our faith, our hope, our love for God and others. If we refuse to express ourselves, we defeat the reason for gathering.

Bottom line: praise God. “Praise him in the morning, praise him in the noon time, praise him when the sun goes down.” Praise him in church. Praise him at home. Praise him on your way to work or school. Praise him when you get there.  Praise him for everything you see and hear around you that helps you admire him. The more you praise, the more you will admire him, and the more you will appreciate him.

So praise him. In your heart. In your mind. And when appropriate, with your lips.

(When is it not appropriate? You decide. Don’t let our culture decide for you).

Laus Deo semper![2]

[1] Isaiah 1:2. Scholars say this text inspired the custom of putting an ox and a donkey into Christmas cribs – as if they knew and understood the Savior.

[2] In some Catholic schools it became a custom to write this (abbreviated L.D.S.) at the end of every paper: “Praise to God always!” At the top students wrote A.M.D.G. –  “For the greater glory of God!” This is the motto of Pope Francis.

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