January 16, 2010

The Church As One Orchestra

I remembered something very important today.

I remembered that we, God's penultimate creations, are designed for each other. We are made for interaction, for communication, for caring. We are created to be in fellowship. One person alone cannot make it through life without feeling some sense of extreme loss and discontentment (I know, I've tried). God alone can fill the "hole" in our hearts, but we are still, on some level, incomplete if we do not pay any attention to the relationships around us. Look at Paul, for instance. He could have very well decided to hole himself up socially and praise God alone for the rest of his days. But he didn't. He ministered, he witnessed, he admonished and instructed. He interacted with those who stood by his side in fellow communion with the Lord. I believe we can learn from that.

This may sound like some cheesy "no man is an island" cliche. But it's not. This is something big, something serious. God has purposely designed us to act in fellowship. To form relationships, and glorify Him through those relationships. We are called to support our Christian family, to teach and learn from each other in God's sight. There is nothing but vanity in the resistance of that concrete fact of our existence. We are intended to be one with God, but also to be one with each other. We are members of the same body, the same Church, the same Christ. The hands must interact in response to the eyes, the legs must move according to the feet, and we must incorporate each other and our relationships into our praise.

We are intended as instruments for His glory. And you can sound good playing a violin by yourself on the streets, but it's just never going to match up with a full orchestra.

January 15, 2010

A Jumbled Mass of Flesh & Bone

Try this next time you're out driving (or riding in) a car.

Take a look around you. Notice the other cars in front of you, beside you, behind you. If you want, you can even count them. Now, take a step back, away from your own narrow prerogative, to the "bigger picture" scale. Look at the cars again, only, this time, see each one for what it is. See each car as a symbol of the person behind the wheel. You are surrounded by people. No longer a mass of unidentified cars, but people. They all have names, like Greg or Ashley or Sam. They all have faces, and behind each of those faces lies a lifetime of memories. Each of those people are infinitely complex, intricately put together.

Just like you.

But what makes each of them a "person?" When you get down to it, what makes a person move, feel, cry, laugh, taste, touch, smell, sing? What is a person? Am I a face? A jumbled mess of flesh and bone, through which I view the world around me? Am I the set of teeth inside my mouth? That may sound silly, but it's just as arbitrary as assuming that I am the rest of my face. You can take a man's arm off, and he is still a man. You can cover a man in burns, until he is unrecognizable, and he is still that same man. What makes us go? What makes us tick? Is it bio-electricity? If so, how in the world did it get started, then? Did some lightening bolt strike some lucky mass of flesh and sinew and bone and begin pumping its already-formed heart? Am I to believe that the synapses and receptor sites in my brain were conditioned to "take" before they were charged with whatever mysterious current it is that fuels our lives? That's like shaking all of the pieces to a watch in a huge box, saying that they'll come together eventually and form the original, working watch, even though you kept the batteries in your hand the whole time.

Is it so hard to believe that we have a soul? An unexplainable, unfathomable spirit within our bodies? Is it so hard to take a look around you, see all of these other beings, each different and unimaginably complicated, and arrive to the conclusion that there's something just as complicated and unimaginable behind it all? How often do we think of that? How often do we notice the people around us, and acknowledge that each and every one of them has a lifetime of experience and memories behind them?

I don't know. Life itself just seems so mysterious and elaborate, so convoluted to our own perception, but ordered to a degree that we can't even see with our own eyes. With that in mind, I have no problem at all believing that there is a God out there, and He is responsible for all of this.

And if that's true, wouldn't you want to acknowledge Him as well?

January 14, 2010

Era of the TV Evangelist

We all wear masks.

No, not the comedy-tragedy, drama masks, but the ones that are just beneath the skin. The masks we impose on ourselves, for whatever reasons. It could be to fit in, to seem as one of the crowd. It could be in order to impress someone, in order to get ahead in this racing life we live. We go through life with layer after layer of masks hiding what's underneath: the face of a scared child, decorated in primitive war paint.

But there are all types of disguises that we employ. The fake laugh, the obsequious nod of the head, the averted glance, the clip-clack of a hurried pace. We wear masks of love, pride, subservience, agitation, calm, well-being, and all other semblances of the grand play that we are acting out. Whatever it takes to "get by."

Maybe "getting by" isn't all that we're meant to do, though.

I look around at the church today, and it is "getting by." So many people wear their masks of godliness and righteousness, trying to hide the fact that they are sinners, saved by no effort of their own, but by God's interference. We are in the era of the TV evangelist. At least, by the world's standards. They see corrupt preachers who ask for money and for you to press your palm to the glass of your television set for healing. They see the lost children who are hurting and suffering despite the grandiose claims of Christianity. They see the hypocrisy that so many of us live, and all of us, at times, display. And they are wearied by it. They think, since they have seen the masks of Christianity, that they know what we are about. They believe that they know our "agenda," our slant of things. They see the masks we, even as Christians, still wear, and never glimpse the awe and love etched into our real faces.

How can we expect a world that knows us so poorly to react with anything but indifference?

How can we expect any of them to be changed?

The only way to reach out to this dying world is to remove all of our masks, to be vulnerable. To show the rest of humanity that we accept and do not deny the presence of our sinful natures. To apologize for the hypocrisy, the deceit, and reclaim what being a Christian means. And to show them that we will have the courage to do what so few people from this age do:

We will be honest.

January 12, 2010

Soft, Creamy Centers

There's a lot of people out there who say that human beings are essentially good. That we have soft, creamy centers of warmth and fuzzy feelings. That we are refined by our culture and socioeconomic statuses to a position, a caliber, that is entirely different from, say, those in other countries who rape, kill, and maim.

Wait, what was that again?

How can we be considered any better than human beings who live just around the corner of the world from us? We see TV specials about violence and brutality in South Africa, and maybe even care, at times, but secretly hold the belief that we, being of American quality, are incapable of such heinous acts. We could never be the serial killer who gets caught in the end. We couldn't possibly be that "bad."

Or could we?

What's the difference, here? I mean, really, when you get down to it: how are we so different? What distinguishes us from all of those other people? Our evolutionary progression? Please. If you follow that route then you're essentially saying that "bad guys" are of an inferior species, while we, the "good guys," are just naturally superior. Good luck finding someone who's willing to say that and really stick by it. And if you do find someone who does, applaud them. It takes a special breed of ignorance to assert such a blind position.

What other options are available, then? How about this one: all human beings are sinful, fallen, capable of even the most debase thoughts and deeds. That sinful nature can be swept under the rug by our Stepford smiles and white-washed fences, but it doesn't make it any less real. Take a gander at politics. Really look at it. Our government, in order to function, is developed to have "checks and balances" so that no one branch can obtain the upper hand over the others. Even in such a broad, general realm, human beings need to be checked and balanced. Corrected and restrained.

Why is that, do you think?

It's because we are all fallen. We are all filled to overflowing with sin and malice and hate and greed. We naturally take advantage over those whom we can take advantage of. I'm sorry, but that's not survival of the fittest. If it was, then there would be no reason to restrain ourselves so very often. It's seen as unfair to take advantage of others, yet we teach that nature's progression is the end-all-be-all.

That just doesn't make sense to me...