Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Towards a Psychological Understanding of Servanthood: An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship between Orthodox Beliefs, Experiential Avoidance, and Self-Sacrificial Behaviors among Christians at a Religiously-Affiliated University

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Towards a Psychological Understanding of Servanthood: An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship between Orthodox Beliefs, Experiential Avoidance, and Self-Sacrificial Behaviors among Christians at a Religiously-Affiliated University

Article excerpt

Thc authors utilized structural equation modcling (SEM) to explore the relationship between orthodox Christian beliefs, experiential avoidance, and self-sacrificial Christian behaviors among adults at a religiously-affiliated university. Results revealed that lower experiential avoidance was linked to more orthodox Christian beliefs, which, in turn, was related to more self-sacrificial Christian behaviors, similar to the acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) model that emphasizes accepting the inner world in order to adopt and live out a set of well-defined values in the outer world. Therefore, the authors proposed ACT-based interventions designed to help Christians cultivate an attitude of acceptance when relating to difficult private encounters, which may help followers of Christ to more fully believe in and implement his teachings. Further research is needed to generalize and replicate these preliminary results.

Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Joshua J. Knabb, Assistant Professor of Psychology, California Baptist University, 10370 Hemet Street, Suite 200, Riverside, CA 92503. Phone: (951) 343-3937. Electronic mail: jknabb@calbaptistedu Author Note: Joshua J. Knabb, PsyD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, California Baptist University, Riverside, CA; Joseph Pelletier, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, California Baptist University, Riverside, CA; Anna Grigorian-Routon. MS, Lecturer of Psychology, California Baptist University. Riverside, CA.

According to both Christian scripture and theology, religious belief should lead to behavior and action. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus argued for the importance of putting his teachings into practice (7:24), with the Apostle James writing that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). As the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1955) revealed, "It is evident that the only appropriate conduct of men [sic] before God is the doing of His will. [Jesus'] Sermon on the Mount is there for the purpose of being done" (p. 46).

In addition, a plethora of New Testament verses (1) elucidate that following the teachings of Christ involves self-sacrifice, servanthood, suffering, and hardship. In the gospels, Jesus taught that individuals wishing to follow him must deny themselves and "take up their cross" (Matthew 16:24), proclaiming that he came to serve, rather than be served (Mark 10:45), and that the world would hate those who follow him (John 15:18-20). Moreover, the Apostle Paul wrote that he is content with a wide variety of hardships and difficult experiences "for the sake of Christ" (2 Corinthians 12: 10 ). In agreement, in The Imitation of Christ, the German medieval writer Thomas Kemp is (2003) noted:

  When you shall have come to the point where suffering is sweet and
  acceptable for the sake of Christ, then consider yourself fortunate,
  for you have found paradise on earth. But as long as suffering irks
  you and you seek to escape, so long you will be unfortunate. (p.43)

Overall, both New Testament writings and Christian theology illuminate that religious belief should lead to religious behavior when following Christ, and that self-sacrifice, servanthood, suffering, and hardship are part of this two-step process of understanding Christian teachings and putting them into practice.

Common Christian beliefs that involve self-sacrifice and servanthood include loving one's neighbors (Luke 10:27), forgiving and praying for one's enemies (Matthew 6:14-15), giving to the poor (Matthew 5:42), serving others in the local church (Galatians 6:10; Romans 12:3-8), and evangelizing to non-Christians via missionary work (Matthew 28:19). To be sure, those hearing Jesus' words must put them into practice, which is analogous to building a firm foundation so that one's house is not destroyed by the storms of life (Matthew 7:24-27).

Within the psychology and sociology of religion literatures, though, the link between religious belief and behavior is often inconsistent (see Sappington & Baker, 1995). …

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