House of Mirrors
I was watching old comedy clips the other day and came across some George Carlin. I’ve actually never listened to much of his stuff, if any, but he’s a comedy icon so I thought I should check it out.
I ended up on this bit, which is all about God, or the implausibility of God. I mean he really went at religion, specifically mine. He even said that if God existed then he needed to strike him dead right on the stage.
I didn’t get offended or angry. I did, however, get stirred up. I got challenged. My brain and my heart started working together to identify what I believed and why.
I actually find myself watching or listening to arguments against my beliefs quite a bit. I enjoy talking religion and life with people whenever I can. Some of the most meaningful discussions I’ve ever had have been sitting at a bar somewhere talking to people who disagree with my beliefs.
So far, I haven’t given up on my faith. I have found that I’ve actually ended up believing it more than I would have had I never been challenged.
I think sometimes we as Christians can have a tendency to lock ourselves into our own closed off houses. I would even call it a house of mirrors. In this house, we basically stand around and just stare at ourselves. We hang out with people who believe basically the same as us. People who think like us. Agree like us. Talk like us. People who read the same Francis Chan books.
Now, occasionally we’ll disagree about predestination versus free will, or we’ll argue about what a real worship song should sound like. But we all still believe in Jesus. We all know the church lingo. We all challenge each other, but we don’t really challenge each other.
If you are wondering why there are so many battles in the church, I think it is the same reason kids crammed into the backseat of a car fight.
When I was a kid, we had the ugliest (or sexiest depending on your taste) car in the world. A 1975 Chrysler Cordoba. I mean this thing was a literal hunk of metal. We could have ended the Cold War if they would have let us just plow that thing straight through the Berlin Wall. Two door car with leather seats in the middle of Florida during the summer. And you minivan kids with your movies on your iPad think you have it bad.
There was approximately four square inches of space for my sister and I to share. So sure enough, we’d fight constantly back there. Over dumb stuff. Over whose shoestring was crossing over onto whose side. Over the fact that we were tired of having to sit next to each other. Heck, we’d fight just to pass the time.
Our church fights can work the same way. Our faith isn’t being challenged by people who think differently than us so we have nothing better to do but argue with ourselves over trivial matters of the Bible.
This is a waste of time. And a shame.
I’ve always been impressed by the Apostle Paul’s ministry tactics. Probably the coolest place I’ve ever been in my life was to Mars Hill; I got to stand where Paul himself stood. Mars Hill was the meeting place for the Areopagus Court in Athens. It was also a place where the most intellectual minds in Greece would come and discuss philosophy, religion, and law.
Paul would go there and challenge the thinking of the intellectuals of the day. He would listen to them. He would present his case for Christ. He would go through their marketplaces, too. He would allow himself to be absorbed in their culture without losing himself in it. Pretty amazing, and apparently quite effective because if you flip open the New Testament, you’ll probably land in a book he wrote.
Paul and the other Apostles were effective because they got outside of their walls. They got into the culture around them. They were disagreed with. They were thrown out of cities. They were full of the Holy Spirit and not afraid of trolls on Facebook.
I’m not suggesting that anyone needs to abandon their small group and go to a bar instead. I do think we all need to find a way to get outside of house of mirrors and take in the culture around us. Really think about where Jesus went. He was teaching in the synagogue, and then he was talking to people in the market places. He was on boats with his disciples, and then he was having dinner with tax collectors and prostitutes.
Go some places. Get your feet dirty. Feel uncomfortable for a bit. Get your brain and heart working together. A faith that has not been tested should be slow to be trusted.