Have you noticed? For some folk, increasing religiosity seems to give rise to increasing certainty. They grow more opinionated, more out-spoken, and more rigid.
Jesus grappled with this regularly. The religious leaders of His day had it all dialed in. They knew exactly what God expected and what they needed to do to get Him to act. Their world was black-and-white; no gray. Specific performance would produce predictable results. Keep the rules. Do the duty. They had a religion they could manage. Formulas ruled the day.
It’s easy to understand the attraction of organized and orchestrated religion: Everything is neat and orderly—no mess; community is based on conformity—less conflict; faith becomes more of a social contract than a spiritual Journey—more belonging.
The cost of such religion, however, remains high. Church after church (but not all churches by any means) gravitate to this form of Christian faith. Sectarianism thrives. Personal freedom experiences a slow, lingering death. And the demise of mystery leaves the soul hollow.
Have you seen this … or experienced it?
Culturally, we seek certainty. We want to know. We want to understand. We want to be able to explain. But such certainty sometimes anesthetizes us to the wonder of God. It numbs our spirit.
In some ways, perhaps, certainty is not a blessing but an “un-gift.” While we desire it, it actually does us a dis-service.
It takes faith to embrace what we cannot see, to walk where we have not been, to obey what we do not understand, and to release our need to know. Ironically, this posture of an open-hand becomes the real gift—not just our gift to Christ but our gift from Christ.
In a statistics-craving, metrics-driven culture, even religion can be reduced to numbers, patterns, and predictions.
How much certainty do we need today? Can we live with some level of ambiguity, uncertainty, and open-handedness?
I wonder if our willingness to embrace mystery and let it remain mystery may be the pathway to the greatest certainty of all: Jesus Himself.