Aversion to Piety

Posted on August 8, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

One of the unfortunate characteristics of church life seems to be an aversion to piety. We value conformity in the practices of worship and the Christian life, and, in fact, this may be a more prominent factor in the choice of which church we attend than doctrinal distinctives.

Piety, understood as holiness, is a deep spirituality that is manifested in an intimate walk with God. It may find expressions in a hunger for the word of God in one who cannot get enough Bible study and delights in the constant discovery of God’s truth. While others of us strive to fill public prayer with familiar words of trite thankfulness and supplication, the pious person verbalizes prayer in phrases that reflect scripture promises and language that struggles to adequately express the glory and majesty and grace of God.

Why are we uncomfortable with someone who always has a testimony of what God is doing in their life and seems to find open doors of witness while others are intimidated and shy about sharing their faith? Piety may be characterized by times of fasting when one is so aware of their own needs and weaknesses their longing for God exceeds their desire for food. It may be the person that is so overwhelmed by a hymn of praise they sense themselves to be literally in the presence of a holy and almighty God and feel constrained to lift their hands in adoration to the One who is worthy of all praise and glory, eliciting condescending glances of fellow worshippers.

We quickly judge those who would manifest such practices, and, God forbid, talk about them as self-righteous and “holier-than-thou, as if they were actually motivated to gain personal attention and project a pretense that was less than genuine. We forfeit a considerable benefit in rejecting those within the body of Christ who could be an example and model for growth for our own growth.

Australians call this the “tall poppy syndrome.” In the poppy fields all the plants and flowers are to be the same height. If one plant should grow taller it is readily chopped off lest it mess up the desired neat appearance. Organizations sacrifice a great deal when their is no room for innovators, creativity and those who would do things differently. And when Christians criticize and put down the more pious brother the body is reduced to a spiritual mediocrity that becomes the norm for everyone.

Many churches are discovering, what I consider, more authentic forms of worship. They are breaking free of tradition and creating an atmosphere of freedom. Congregations are not just vocalizing familiar lyrics but are literally entering into the presence of the One who indwells the praises of His people. Such worship does not conclude with no more thoughts of God until the next Sunday but carries over into a daily awareness of His presence.

While knowing God and biblical truth entails intellectual understanding, it is sad that we readily dismiss the emotional element of religious faith. It has always been somewhat an enigma that we could speak of knowing the almighty creator and sovereign God in personal faith and it have no effect on our emotions! If we really love God with all our heart, mind and soul, it would invariably result in a more pious expression of what we claim to believe.

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