Last week I drove my children back and forth to Jesup every. single. morning. for school testing. I am not a morning person and it was a two hour round trip, with about a three hour wait time in the middle. By the third day, I was actually falling asleep in the van, waiting. I also had appointments to take them to, myself to, and had to pick up and drop off Trever, etc.
When the weekend came I crashed. I slept nearly all weekend and if I wasn't asleep, I was watching cruddy television. I didn't even emerge from my exhaustion to attend church, and I usually sing with the worship team. Danny's been preaching about abiding in Christ and denying the flesh, and I have really been pondering all this... Because I guess most of us have areas in our lives where we are blind to carnality, to worldliness, to all the numerous ways we feed our flesh.
I don't want to point my fingers at others, I want to examine myself and get my own house in order. Really. But I can't help but take a glance around at all the Christians I know and feel like, while we are preaching the right message, we do a terrible job living it out.
I tend to come across as abrasive. This is something I have been working on. Sometimes, I get myself pretty worked up and I use social media incorrectly. I do think, in general, it's not the place to have confrontations. But sometimes you're calling out a whole lotta bull all at once and it's just, well, convenient. I was appalled at how many Christians in my feed were posting about the fight this weekend. I expect this from the world, it's worldly- it goes all the way back to the arenas and coliseums, and it is in its essence, blood lust.
Can it get more carnal than paying a lot of money to watch two people beat the ever loving snot out of each other?
I've recognized the trend increasing in television lately, and I haven't been entirely immune to it. I've made excuses: The Walking Dead is about zombies, which aren't real, so that's different. The Vampire Diaries, again, they're about Vampires- not real. Etcetera, ad infinitum. But the truth? TWD thrives off violence and gore, TVD is all about blood lust and, um, good 'ol regular lust too. I could never get into Game of Thrones, because there was a (I don't know the politically correct term here, little person? Midget?) receiving oral sex in the very first episode, but I have heard it is pretty violent and gory too.
I like detective shows, but sometimes they are are about serial killers, criminals, the awful science of forensics that we have had to develop because our species is so violent. We develop a morbid fascination with the dark side. All the movies and TV shows that are based on comics are the same way, people with psychotic breaks and messiah complexes, and, of course, loads and loads of violence.
I get why people like these shows, I understand the addiction that comes with them, that desperation for next week's episode and a little more of the story.
When Trever and I first became Christians, we didn't have TV. We spent our evenings talking and reading and playing with our kids. I didn't miss it, honestly. But now we watch lots of things that, if I am being honest, I know are not a good witness for Christ. I remember once, someone told me to imagine the holiest person I actually knew in real life coming over while I was watching whatever I was watching... how would I feel? Fine? Ashamed? Defensive?
It helped me to think about it because honestly, sometimes asking yourself WWJD doesn't help much.
Still, do I think the same Jesus that taught His followers to turn the other cheek, to not return evil for evil, do I think He'd enjoy sitting down and watching a bloody fight? Grown up soap operas filled with blood and sex and gore? No, I really can't.
Anyway, I'm rambling.
I think we have gone way too far engaging in culture to reach it any more. We look no different than the world. We watch the same shows and enjoy all the same things, and sometimes we get brave and tack Jesus on to it. Some of the kindest, most moral people I know are not Christians. They feed the homeless and donate to charities. But they don't know Jesus. This makes me a little suspicious. If I am doing good things but I don't look enough like Him to show Him to others, than a homeless man went to bed with a full belly but I've not helped his soul. If he dies, he will die lost.
If we are using these ministries as opportunities to communicate the gospel, great. But it is the gospel that is most important and I think we are too concerned about meeting people where they are, engaging with them socially, being friends... that we forget what's most important. The Bible teaches us we are to make disciples, and you gotta be one to make one.
And just to be clear, when I say "the gospel", I mean relationship and intimacy with the Living Christ. Those of us who claim Him should be holy, and progressing in sanctification and holiness. We are not supposed to look like, act like and consume entertainment just like the world. Otherwise, we really are taking His name in vain.
I am preaching to myself as much as anyone else.
I feel sad tonight. I know this isn't going to get me far, I can already hear the cry, "LEGALISM!!" ringing in my ears. But it's all I know to say, and I believe it is true.
Trever and I talked to our kids about this tonight, and we all agreed to make some changes, God helping us. I am grateful for the fight this weekend, because I guess sometimes it takes something that drastic to shake you out of your numbness, and that's how I feel right now. Like all my nerve endings and sensitivities to holiness are on high alert after being numb for a long time. I have spiritual pins and needles.
And I apologize, both to the Church AND to the world- to the Church because I should have spoken up sooner, and in love. I should have prayed, I should have cared more than I have. And to the world because if I am supposed to be salt and light to you, I have been neither. I have enjoyed playing hide and seek in the dark. I have said I loved you and shared a beer, but I have not loved you as I truly should, with tender love for your soul, with a willingness to lay down my own desires and preferences that I might point you to the light.
I have always said I thought The Beatles were geniuses when they said "Love is all you need," because in a way, it is true. But the truest love is a person, and His name is Jesus. His love ran red when He shed His blood and for those of us who are claiming to be His disciples, He is a real King with a real Kingdom that has real laws. As much as I falter and fail, I am His, and His laws are written on my heart.
For those of you who might have found your way here who are Christian leaders, may I humbly ask you to consider one last thing? Do you remember the Nazarites, in Scripture? They were those who had taken a special vow and were consecrated, set apart, for a purpose. They were not only not allowed to have wine, they were forbidden to touch anything that came from the vine. They couldn't eat grapes or raisins. What would have been the harm in partaking of those things? But see, that wasn't the point. Could we argue that there is nothing wrong with some of the things we do- whether it's having a beer or watching a TV show or liking a certain band? Yes, we could, and we would be missing the point, too. We are meant to be Kings and Priests- holy unto the Lord, and willing to give up anything that may serve as a stumbling block for others.
Are we willing to get ourselves out of the way so we can shine light like the city on a hill we are meant to be?
I am going to publish this, but it is with a trembly heart. I do not wish to argue, accuse or debate. I beg you to consider, to pray, to think this thing through with me. And maybe, maybe... maybe we can talk about how to live like Jesus to a lost and hurting world. Forgive my utter obnoxiousness and believe me when I say I mean this truly, gently and with great love.