During our message series, Holy Triage, we’re looking at five areas that create a considerable amount of stress and anxiety for people. It’s our way of helping you take a personal inventory of your faith. We’re encouraging you to reflect on what defines you as a spiritual person and where you might need some healing or at least a boost in your level of spiritual wellness.
Last week, we considered the problem of setting and keeping healthy spiritual priorities, which requires both a clear vision about Christ and the courage to follow him. This week, we consider the problem of social competition. Most of us experience some level of anxiety and insecurity in this area, the most common cause of which is the failure to remember God’s unconditional love.
The history of the ancient Jewish people offers a good example of this dynamic. The Israelite nation was God’s chosen people. “I will be your God and you shall be my people,” the Lord told them (Jeremiah 7:23). Israel was chosen not as a result of favoritism, however, but for a special mission, namely, to be a model of holiness for the whole world. Indeed, God made the Jewish people to be “a light to the nations, that [his] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
But the people did not obey. “They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs” on God (Jeremiah 7:24). Throughout their troubled history, the children of Israel were repeatedly unfaithful to God because they tried to mix the worship of other gods with that of the one true God. (See, e.g., Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 15:31-33; Jeremiah 19:5). In doing so, they became like an adulterous spouse. (See, e.g., Jeremiah 9:2; Ezekiel 16:15-19; Hosea 2-3).
But what caused them to turn to other gods in the first place? Why did they straddle the fence when it came to the Lord? One reason was their own sense of social insecurity. The Jewish nation was surrounded by more prosperous empires and nations that both threatened their survival but at the same time projected an image and lifestyle the Israelites sought to emulate. (1 Samuel 8:19-20; Ezekiel 20:32). The bottom line is that they continually forgot that they were God’s special possession and loved dearly by him.
Our own deep-rooted social anxiety stems from the same source. Our worth does not come from our talents, accomplishments, or merits. Rather, our very dignity and worth as human beings have their source in God’s love for us. Forgetting the constant and unshakable love of God always results in stress and worry, especially when we compare ourselves to others.
To learn more about the problem of social competition and how to overcome it, listen to this week’s message at church or on the messages page of our website.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson