One practical reason for a religious focus in life is to build up the kind of inner strength required to prevent the unsavory features of the popular culture from swallowing us up. We live in a time of tremendous cultural pressure that is, in a number of respects, anti-Christian. The spirit of the world is powerful and unrelenting and there is little society support for those who choose to reject the spirit of the world and embrace the spirit of God. This is not a popular choice and as a result it can often lead to certain loneliness in our lives. If we are going to be true to our values, if we are going to celebrate and defend a virtuous life we need to build up certain strength within us. This inner strength will allow us to resist the culture pressures to abandon our values, our true selves, and God. We do this by the study of God’s Word, the reception of his anointing in the sacraments, solid spiritual reading and from wise persons who are already living the Christian life.
Jesus was anxious about the “world” as a menace to his disciples. He spoke of this in his prayer to his Father during the Last Supper: “… Father, I gave them your message and the world has hated them for it because they do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. I do not ask you to take them out of the world but I do ask you to keep them safe from the Evil One.” John 17, 14-15
The world God has given us is a beautiful world in every respect, yet we know this same world sometimes turns ugly by reason of the misdeeds of men. This world provides much that is good yet some other things are distractions from the God who created this world. And still some other things are downright evil while being, at the same time, very attractive to us. Christians have always been interested in engaging the world in order to save it for God who came to redeem the world.
It may appear to be something of a riddle. The stamp left on us by the popular culture is a mixed experience. We are drawn to the this-worldly in all its allurements. We are made to think that all that is popular is also good precisely because it is American and free and affordable or legal. We know we can be deceived as well as our children and grandchildren can be deceived. So, we come to church for direction to put all things in proper perspective so that the road-map to the kingdom can remain for us clear and uncluttered. It is a wise man who can sort out the goodness of the world from the evil the world generates.
If we are going to walk with God and become good Christians we need an inner strength which seems to come from a combination of grace and discipline. This strength is not something we can attain for ourselves; it is a gift God freely gives us when we cooperate with His plan for our lives. When we have this strength within us we will have a Christian effect on our families and other acquaintances. When we don’t have this strength, then the environment has an effect on us. So true is that saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!”
We stand for Christ and his message. The centrality of Christ in human history and in our individual lives is no small discovery, nor is it just one of many ideas. It is a fact that has been tried and tested, and the results are truly awe inspiring.
We pray to gather inner strength to survive and thrive in a culture that is often hostile and sometimes violent toward what is good and true and pure. We simply cannot survive in our crazy, noisy, busy world without the sanctuary of prayer and reflection to refresh ourselves and keep ourselves focused on Christ.