February 13, 2007

What Difference...? pt. 1

What difference does being a Christian make in my life?

...it teaches me to be real.

Sorry; I didn't mean to leave you hanging so long after that last "teaser" post, but I've been having computer problems. I don't really understand why. I have the best computer that twenty bucks will buy, and I do feed the hamsters that spin the wheels that make it work....Anyway, here's the first of several responses.

I think the whole reason I am captivated by this question is that, even though Christianity does make a difference in my life, I spend a lot of time pretending that it doesn't. The reason I do all this pretending is that, even though I'm a pastor, I don't want all the stereotypes of pastors and clergy applied to me. I want to be cool. I want to be liked. I want to fit in. (The desire to fit in is something that few really outgrow.)

I don't mind playing the role of the smart theologian, a role that demonstrates the degrees and title I have. I can tell you what scholars and theologians say. But that doesn't answer the question. Like Jesus' question to Peter ("But who do you say I am?"), this question is much more personal. It's hard to answer it and still be "cool." It's hard to answer it, and still be "normal," still fit in.

The ironic thing is that one of the biggest diferences being a Christian has made in my life is by letting me know that it's OK to NOT be normal. Jesus wasn't normal, certainly not. As a 12 year-old, there was no place he'd rather be than in church, talking about scripture. Once, his parents couldn't find him, and they searched all over for him, and finally found him in church (the temple), talking about God with the leaders. His parents had been worried sick about him, and boy did he get in trouble for that! (I guess getting in trouble for not letting his parents know where he was is one way that Jesus was normal, but how often did you ever get in trouble for being in church?)

When Jesus started telling people his own ideas, it was apparent that his ideas were very different. They weren't what everyone believed. They weren't politically correct. If it were me, I probably would have kept my mouth shut. In fact, that's what I do much of the time. If there's an idea that's popular, I'll just go with the flow, even though it's not really what I believe. I'm not stupid, I know what happens to people who speak their mind too often!

A lot of people didn't like what Jesus said, but many others did. The people who didn't like what he said were the people who were important: the rich, the powerful, those who determined what was cool and what wasn't. Those who did like Jesus were those who were not cool. They were so uncool, there was no way they could pretend that they were cool. Everyone knew it. These were the people who had no social life, the people with reputations so bad that they could never be fixed. Sometimes, their reputations were their own fault: they had made mistakes, done some really stupid stuff, and were now paying for it. Sometimes it wasn't their fault: they were poor, crippled, or sick. But they all found it impossible to hide how un-cool they were.

Here's a secret: the really cool people, those who are "important," they're really just as uncool as everyone else. They're just as scared as being discovered for who they really are as everyone else is. They're just as insecure as everyone else. The only difference is, they're better at hiding it. They're better at pretending.

Well, one difference being a Christian has made in my life is that I know that I don't have to pretend. I still catch myself doing it a lot, but the more I learn, and the more I grow, the more I discover that it's OK to just be me. Some people may not like that. They may think I'm uncool. But the truth is that when I stop pretending, I'm free. I don't have to hide behind the mask anymore. I don't have to work so hard anymore just to be cool. Being cool is too much work. And it's so fake. I'd rather be real than be cool.

Jesus wasn't cool. Some say that he was, but they're just trying to gather a crowd of cool people around them. Jesus wasn't cool; Jesus was real. When I learn about Jesus, I learn how I can be real, too.

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