It’s August of 2007, a humid early Summer morning on the Chesapeake Bay. I’m scraping rank barnacles off the bottom of a boat in Port Annapolis as a co-worker scours the chrome above deck. Calling my name suddenly, he points to a Catamaran yacht gliding gracefully past us.
Emblazoned along the starboard side of the craft was the phrase: “Born okay the first time!”
My colleague, believing me to be (as he described it), “fanatically religious,” asked what I thought of it, and what I thought of someone who’d make such a broadside at my belief in needing to be “born again” before one could enter in Heaven.
“I think I have a lot of work to do,” I responded.
Sensing, perhaps, I was making some allusion to my ongoing efforts to make a Christian out of him, he responded that the boat was already cruising out into the Bay and thus my opportunity had passed.
“No,” I replied, lifting my putty knife corroded with barnacles and motioning to the ship’s hull. “I think I have a lot of work to do.”
Of course, I understood what was going on. The guy saw something he thought would wind me up, and made an effort to point it out. Maybe it would’ve worked with someone else but, for me, it was just too ridiculous to bother about.
Sometimes I think many Christians (especially those with a more conservative theological stance) are far too quick to feel insulted when people either indifferent or hostile to their religion act accordingly.
The slight is further enhanced when it extends into “hot-button” political issues.
“Can you believe what Lady Gaga’s new song is about?” a friend emailed me a few months back, before launching into a tirade about how the world is spiraling out of control because of what the latest pop tart “flash in the pan” is singing about (in an auto-tuned mimicry of early 90s Madonna, I might add).
Asking the unmarried twenty-something “Lady Gaga” what she thinks about the institution of marriage is comparable to asking philosopher Alvin Plantinga how to do the robot. First, why would you bother and, second, just what in the world would you expect the response to be?
Do these things really warrant our offense, I mean really?
Pardon me if I find it difficult to summon much outrage at the invitation I received from a Facebook friend of mine to join a group in support of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” or even at the “Darwin fish” car emblem on the Range Rover ahead of me at the stoplight this morning.
Such trifles are lightweight, especially when viewed in context of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who literally die for their faith worldwide every day.
A missionary friend of mine in India was dragged out of his church and severely beaten by a group of radical Hindus. Another friend of mine in Pyongyang was imprisoned for teaching Korean children the Lord’s Prayer. Such things make the sort of thoughtless swipes one might receive at the hands of our culture appear laughable in comparison.
Moreover, when I study the life of the early Christians as well as that of Jesus, I find a life lived conspicuously free of outrage at insults. Who was more insulted than Jesus? We have a guy living a sinless life, teaching people to love God and care for others, meanwhile His detractors accused Him of being demon-possessed. Crazy.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating a sort of ideological pacifism when it comes to defending and living out the Gospel before a watching world.
In our day and time, there are many who attack, criticize, or simply distort the message and person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, these challenges must be met on the battlefield of ideas… with strength of integrity, clear-minded argumentation, and the deepest compassion.
For example, whatever one’s view of the biological and purely naturalistic legitimacy of , they are certainly found wanting upon a deeper examination. They are weak metaphysically as well as ethically because of the moral implications bound within theories of natural evolution“survival of the fittest” when applied to human civilization.
But that’s just one example. The point is, the outrage of our Lord was reserved for where it was deserved.
Outrage for the Zealots who co-opted the Faith for political ends, outrage for the corrupt moneychangers in the temple, and outrage for the religious authorities who placed an edifice of pretense and religion as an obstacle between humanity and its Creator.
If we are to be insulted at something, let us revile those areas of our lives where we utterly fail to live up to the standard of His perfect life. Let us despise how we ignore His clear instruction to love God and others. Let us protest our failure to testify before others with our lives. I think my own pettiness and hypocrisy cause a far greater offense to Him than anything the doubters and scoffers can manage.
The mockers and derision of a public audience is like the dust blown by a Spring’s breeze, mildly irritating though all too short-lived.
May our hearts and minds be upon an audience of One.