There is a website that posts Christian satire. Some of you may find it entertaining, others offensive. Either way, this whole post begins from this specific post.
Of course, there are many statistics out there that I can use to debate the premise of this satire post (like this site and this site), but given that the audience of The Babylon Bee is predominantly Christian, and given that the post is more or less commenting on a general trend in American Christianity, I will forgo that discussion.
After reading the satirical post, I thought to myself, Hm, I wonder why we Christians water down our message, soften the hard parts (or ignore them altogether) and then expect to have motivated, Spirit-driven followers?
How many times have I attempted to water down the message of the Gospel? Perhaps I said something to make Jesus look nicer than he really was (“Jesus loves you so much! He wants to do everything for you. He’ll give you everything.”). Maybe there were times when I avoided the fact that not only was God my Father, he was also the Judge, and he was going to come and judge this world.
Then I recalled Genesis 3, and the first person to water down the message of the Gospel.
Did God actually say…?
That was none other than Satan. Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1)
Eve gave the correct reply, but what did the serpent do afterwards? You will not surely die. He flicked away the consequences, and made light of God’s judgment. He told Adam and Eve that the punishment the Lord promised will not actually come true. Stretching the story a little further, aren’t there times when Satan tells us, “Oh, God loves you too much to send you to hell” or the counterpart, “God doesn’t love you enough to save you”? Does not the former indicate that God is not serious about sin and does not the latter indicate that God is not serious about you?
And how many times have we listened to both sides?
Someone once told me that to know God was to love all sides of him. Have I glorified one part of him at the expense of another? Have I rendered the verse, “God is faithful” to only mean that he will be faithful to provide, faithful to bless — instead of realizing that God is faithful to his character and that includes not only his love and blessings but also his holiness and judgment? After all, Isaiah 63 very clearly details the coming of the Lord, but not necessarily in a way that we would find “merciful” and “loving”: “Who is he coming in garments dipped in crimson?”
Have I watered down the Gospel because somewhere along the line, I had decided that the cross was not needed? That sin and its consequence, death, are not really that serious? Have I forgotten that when I look upon the cross, I am seeing the embodiment of all God is – his wrath, his glory, his everlasting kindness – and I cannot be faithful to him if I am not faithful to all he is?
Did God really say that you will die?
Yes, He did.
Yet, now that I know that watering down the message of the Gospel is not an option, what is my next step?
Perhaps in our mind, we all have an ideal image of what a Christian should look like. It might be a man standing in the streets, proclaiming the Word. It might be a woman helping out at a soup kitchen. It might be a doctor sacrificing his time and family to be in a third-world country.
I used to think that an ideal Christian was charismatic, and often times, I associated “charismatic” with “outspoken” and “bold.” The ideal Christian could shut down all the questions and arguments thrown at him or her. They would be constantly praying (perhaps waking up at 6 am just to pray). They breathe and sleep Bible verses. Perhaps they’ve memorized 10 books already. They are always ahead of the pack, the first one to arrive, the last one to leave. I am sure we all have those images in those head, and because we do, we think, “Oh, we can never be like that. I’m not fit for that job.” Being bold and outspoken are good traits, but I do not think that they are the sole traits to define a Christian.
Perhaps an ideal Christian is one who takes the Lord seriously.
Recently, I have been following a manga/anime called Haikyuu! It follows the lives of a high school volleyball team in Japan, and how they improve and fight to one day stand on the national stage. In this team, there are many different types of people.
You have the gung-hos: those crazy about volleyball, and all they think about is volleyball, and during games, they are the loudest on the court. You only have to watch this video to know what I mean.
We know Christians like that, and how often have I compared myself to them. If only I said something more, if only I were more outspoken, more outgoing, more social…if only I knew all the right words, the right arguments…These are the people who can rally others up easily. They seem to always have the right conversations at the right time. They seem to be so in tune with the Spirit that sometimes, I get envious.
You have those who had given up along the way only to come back. In the manga/anime, these are the second years like Ennoshita who left because of the hard training only to come back because they realized they loved volleyball. We know Christians like that, too. Christians who have left only to come back.
You have those like Tsukishima. They are cynical, sarcastic, realistic, lukewarm but definitely intelligent. Tsukishima is stumped by all the strong players around him, and no matter how great his efforts are, he cannot surpass them, so he gives just enough. But even as he is giving half-hearted efforts, only enough to be passing, he is still standing on the court. There is still a reason even if he cannot verbalize it that he is still playing volleyball. Perhaps it is pride like what Yamaguchi told him, pride in one’s work and efforts. Or perhaps it is something else. Either way, we have Christians like that, too. They seem fatalistic in nature. Perhaps they seemed to have given up trying. But there is a reason why they still come out to fellowship, to church. Even if the reason doesn’t make sense to us or to them, we must trust that one day, they, too, will develop the same seriousness and motivation as Tsukishima does later on. Because when you keep doing one thing, you will discover why it is important to you.
And then there are the players who have been there all along but are the quietest. For this part, I am going to focus on the captain, Daichi Sawamura. Out of all the players on the team, Daichi may seem to be the one least skilled. As a wing spiker, he is overshadowed by his other more powerful teammates. As a middle blocker, he is overshadowed by the first years. And even though his receives are top-notch, even that skill is overshadowed by the libero. However, despite his shortcomings, he has not once said that he is incapable. Rather, he is more determined than ever to improve.
Despite the different personalities on this volleyball team, once they stepped onto the court, they all had one thing in common: they were serious about volleyball. They were serious about improving and winning.
You can be the loudest and most charismatic person. You can be the person who left and came back. You can be the lukewarm one who still hasn’t found a reason, but surely there is a reason you find yourself coming again and again. You can be the one who hasn’t really developed its wings yet, but is still struggling to fly. You can be the quiet person supporting in the background. You can be all of these, but when we enter into the court, we are all serious about the Lord.
Six together is stronger. That’s the number of people on a volleyball team. Then how much more is the body of Christ made up of millions?
Let us come together and be serious about the Lord. Let us take Him seriously.