Minding the Gap

The phrase “mind the gap” was coined about 1968 in the United Kingdom as a way to warn passengers of the Underground transportation (subway) system of the space that existed between the platform and the rail car.  It was a cautionary instruction that warned passengers so that they might avoid falling into the gap and thereby avoid injury.  In the years following, the phrase has been applied in a variety of life settings to issue warnings of impending danger for those who were willing to listen. In the New Testament Jesus used the expression “he who has ears to hear, let him hear” as a way of informing His hearers of the importance of what He was saying.  It too was a cautionary instruction.  Both expressions point to a reality that there is often a significant gap between where we are currently in our walk with Jesus and where we want to be.  There is a gap between what we know (understand) and what we actually live out on a daily basis.

In the life of discipleship, these gaps get expressed in a couple of different ways that are relatively easy to understand if we place our various Christian beliefs in distinct categories.  We understand that we all have a set of beliefs, some of which reflect the truth about God, ourselves and world in which we live and some that don’t.  We also know, but are sometimes reluctant to admit, that many times even those beliefs that are grounded in God’s truth are not always what we live out.  This is true for a number of reasons, a couple of which I will address later.  My point here is simply to get us reconnected with the ideas that not all of our beliefs are grounded in, or informed by, God’s truth.  And even those that are haven’t always been assimilated by us to the point that they actually inform (shape) our attitudes, expectations and behaviors.

As I stated above, one of the ways to further our understanding so that it ends in transformation is to place our various beliefs into descriptive categories.  The first category is what I call professed beliefs.  These are the beliefs that we say we believe, but in reality that belief may or may not actually realized in our lives.  We may profess to believe in the virtuous nature of generosity, and may even believe we are a generous person but still be stingy with our money, time and possessions. In this case our profession of belief does not square with our behavior.

Another category is aspirational beliefs.  These would include all the beliefs that we know are grounded in God’s truth and our heart’s desire, at some level, is to live them out but we recognize that we aren’t there yet.  We aspire to live out that particular truth but we know in our hearts that more times than not, we don’t live it out.  And if we are honest, sometimes don’t even want to live that way.  Following the previous example regarding generosity, we may recognize that generosity is a Kingdom principle and at some level may even desire to live as a generous person.  But when given the opportunity to act generously presents itself we often, maybe even mostly, still are stingy with our money, time and possessions.

As a side note, this is where most of us are with a great many of our beliefs.  We know the right answers and we know what should do but often our lives are characterized by attitudes and behavior that are inconsistent with our beliefs.  This is of course the journey of discipleship whereby God, through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, works transformation in our hearts.  When transformation is complete we will actually live what we profess to believe.

Finally, there are our actual beliefs.  These are the beliefs that we live out consistently over time and are on fullest display during times of crisis or sustained pressure. It isn’t that we live them perfectly but we can say with integrity it is what is true in our lives most of the time.  The early disciples, along with others throughout church history, believed that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah.  Most of them endured much hardship and persecution for their beliefs, some even experienced martyrdom for their identification with Jesus and His kingdom.  The apostle Peter, along with the other disciples, believed it a great honor to suffer for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41).  And suffer they did.

As an exercise to become more Christ-like you may want to consider reflecting individually on your many beliefs about God, yourself as His follower and the world in which you live.  Is it truly a godly belief, one that is in complete agreement with the Word of God?  Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, ask yourself is this a professed belief or an aspirational belief for me?  Or is it an actual belief that serves as foundation for the way I live?

As a starting point you may want to consider some of the foundational beliefs of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  To be a follower of Jesus is to become like Him in every way. (Matthew 10:24-25)  Do you really want to be like Jesus in every way; dying to self, embracing suffering, taking up your cross, turning the other cheek, trusting totally in His ability to provide for your every need?  Or do you really like your life just the way it is?

Jesus modeled the life of humility and was willing to be misunderstood, unappreciated and even suffered the betrayal of those closest to Him, while still walking in forgiveness toward those who wronged Him.  How about you?

Jesus resisted sin, was in the world but not of it and confronted unrighteousness wherever He found it.  Are you living a life of compromise and accommodation?

The first step in “minding the gap” is a willingness to be totally honest with ourselves. To walk with enough integrity that we will allow God to reveal where we are really at with what we profess to believe?  Second, in those places where there is a lack of desire “to hear” what Jesus is saying, to ask ourselves why is that?  Are repentance and/or healing required?  God shows us the gap that exists between what we profess/aspire to believe and what we actually believe, not to condemn us but to lead us into the abundant life.  I hope you will make “minding the gap” a permanent part of your walk with Him.