American Values, Religious Voices: 100 Days, 100 Letters is a national, nonpartisan campaign created from the conviction that scholars who study and teach our diverse religious traditions have something important to say about our shared American values. This project aims to contribute constructively to our national discourse, reaffirming who we are as Americans and modeling how we can learn from one another and work together for the common good.
I hadn’t heard of this project before today. I plan to read through the 2021 letters this week.
Dr. Clark-Soles was my favorite professor in seminary. When I teach Bible studies and classes to churches, I channel my inner Clark-Soles. Here is her letter to Biden Administration and Congress.
Imagine if we learned to weep with one another. If we learned to walk humbly before God, hand in hand with those in need. Greater things, indeed.
I’ve heard it said, “Sincerity is not to say everything you think, but to mean everything you say.”
If you’re insincere, you’re holding back. There’s a feeling you have within you that doesn’t reflect what you’re saying about yourself or your situation. Even what you say about someone else. Insincerity relates to falsehood or being fake. You might hear the word hypocrite as well.
To be sincere, then, is sharing what is true to you. This is why people want to hear sincere apologies or sincere concessions. If you’re not going to mean what you say, others aren’t all that interested in listening.
It’s this same sense of sincerity that the writer of Hebrews commends to us. As a reminder, Hebrews has shared a high Christology. The writer shows how Christ came to be our high priest, prophet and king. Since Christ is all we need, we can trust the faith God has given us.
“Since” is a common thread throughout Hebrews. You’ll read it some eighteen times. All the writer asks of us is possible and worthwhile since Christ is who we know him to be.
And since Jesus is the new and living way we approach God, Hebrews tells us to turn to God with a sincere heart. Other translations call it a true heart.
Taking what we’ve already said about sincerity, let me offer a reflection question. Why do we find it hard to be sincere with God?
Is it our assumption that God sees us as others do? I know why people are insincere with other people. We don’t like to be vulnerable to others. What if we share too much? What if they use all we share with them against us?
That kind of thinking snakes in every community. I know preachers hesitant to share with colleagues their struggles. They fear having tough conversations because they may irritate the system. Then who’s everyone going to blame?
I’m not convinced we can build Christian community with insincere relationships. Oh, we can build something with a Christian name. But it won’t be Christ-like.
Our sincerity with others begins with our sincerity with God. Since is even in the word sincerely. Hebrews reminds us that we can be sincere with the Lord. If you’re insincere with God, you aren’t hiding from God. You’re fooling yourself. There is freedom for your soul in offering God your sincere heart.
I can’t recall who said it, but someone once offered these wise words about who we are: We prefer the slavery we know over the freedom we don’t.
But our faith tells us, perhaps on Good Friday more than any other day, there is a new life for us. By the grace of God, since Christ fulfills God’s promise, you can live in truth and honesty with the Lord. God will never shame your sincerity.