Last year, I shared a brief story, one that I believe speaks into our situation as Christians who live in America.
My boys love dinosaurs. And that’s an understatement, to say the least! I’ve actually learned more about dinosaurs from my 6-year old than I did in elementary school, probably due to the fact that there is so much more knowledge available 25-30 years later. But he has much knowledge to pass along about the Styracosaurus or Rebbachisaurus or Yangchuanosaurus! It’s truly amazing.
And my 4-year old is learning a lot, whether from story time just before bed or listening to his brother tell about the varied dinosaur creatures.
But here is what they also love – to roar and scream like dinosaurs! Of course, what else could one expect from 2 boys?! My 4-year old can scream like a T-Rex over and over and over. Ear plugs probably wouldn’t help.
While it’s cute at times, and annoying at others, one of the best ways we’ve counteracted the constant dinosaur screams is by explaining to him the concept of losing his voice. One day, after many attempts of belting out like the beloved T-Rex, my son’s voice started to go, sounding a little raspy. That was when we took the opportunity to enlighten him.
Joshua, it’s ok to pretend to be a dinosaur at times, but if you yell too much, you’ll lose your voice. That’s why your throat is hurting. So try doing a quiet roar. You can still look scary, but you won’t lose your voice.
I was shocked that he was willing to try this – raise his hands in a T-Rex position, open his mouth, expose his teeth, and roar, yet with hardly a sound coming out of his mouth. He’s actually learning pretty well, though not always.
Well done, my Joshua. Way to listen!
I share this story by way of introduction, as I believe it relates to the current situation for Christians residing in America.
Whether it’s the Supreme Court’s decision about same-sex marriage to videos of Planned Parenthood to presidential primaries to the most current rage regarding transgender bathrooms, many of us don’t know how to appropriately engage with these things in our time and day.
Here’s what we do: we keep acting as if it’s the 1950’s to 1980’s.
What do I mean by this?
In the 1950’s, and even into the 1980’s, the conservative Christian right was one of the major voices in America, if not the major voice. However, being in the second decade of the twenty-first century, that is no longer the case. Christendom has been steadily crumbling and the Christian right is now a minority.
That’s important from a practical standpoint.
We cannot continue to argue nor react the same way we did in the 1950’s to 1980’s. Just like we wouldn’t expect the followers of Jesus to act as if it were the year 1517 or 1865.
That’s what makes that little verse about the sons of Issachar interesting. They were people “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32).
This doesn’t mean we do not make an effort to discern the ways and truth of God. By no means. But it definitely calls for us to rethink our words, actions and methods. Otherwise, we might end up like a 4 year old who doesn’t heed the wise words of his or her parents. We’ll continue to roar like a T-Rex and we’ll continue to lose our voice.
My son learned to adapt at such a young age. Can we?
Here’s another thing we miss in all our public and social media blasts.
Most of our arguments are against some idea, a concept residing up in our minds. Many have actually never had a relationship with someone from, say, the LGBT community. These people are just ideas in our heads. And so we argue against our ideas of them, rather than relating to actual human beings made in the image of God.
That’s much easier than building intentionally generous and compassionate relationships.
I imagine that we simply don’t understand what it meant for Jesus to partake of a meal with prostitutes and tax collectors. If we’ll think through the reactions of the religious folk, we might understand. These prostitutes and tax collectors were dirty, smelly, nasty, despicable folk who were whoring themselves either with men (in the case of prostitutes) or with Rome (in the case of tax collectors).
Jesus eating with the great whores of society.
Let that sink in.
These were people deeply important to Jesus, the One we name ourselves after.
But more importantly, these were people, not concepts or ideas.
The religious leaders were fuming! But no amount of insults, slander, scripture-quoting or red-faced yelling was going to tame Jesus from actually being with these despised folk.
So why do we keep acting like the Christendom of old still has its place in western society? Why are we not acting more like the church in our world today – a world where Christians are not the majority, but get on very well in being the life of Jesus? And that’s how it was in those first few centuries before the Christianization of Rome. It was a world where the followers of Jesus weren’t continually yelling like T-Rex’s.
They were doing their best to emulate Jesus, not hold on to a particular conservative culture, remembering the good ol’ days of a foregone past.
We aren’t in charge.
We’ve already lost our voice.
Our voice needs to change.
We need to remember that the world is filled with actual people, not mere ideas.
Are we interested in sitting with, listening, eating with, touching, laughing with these gifts made in the image of God?
It’s going to call for a more wise and patient process, one where we think through what it means to be leaven steadily working its way into dough or a mustard seed patiently growing.
That’s a world of difference from how many of us engage in our world today.
Are we ready for change?