(image courtesy: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058536/)
Hey, HOPE-lovers, and happy Monday! I hope you all had great holiday weekend. It’s the most wonderful time of the year so let’s get motivated!
If you and your family are anything like mine, this time of year is bursting with Christmas movies, lights, and trolling the ancient yuletide carols.
Case in point, our family just enjoyed the Christmas classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” last night for about the hundredth time. Well, maybe not the hundredth, but no Christmas experience is complete without it. And this is where I found today’s motivation…
The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil. ~ Proverbs 16:4
I have a simple but bold conviction concerning all people: If you’re a living, breathing, reasoning, bi-pedal being, YOU HAVE PURPOSE!
That’s it. Now, on paper that may seem so simple or cliché and therefore empty. And oftentimes, I think we all struggle feeling that way. But deep down, I believe it with all of my heart, and I also believe that someone will always need a reminder of it.
Cue the predictable quotes from Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, or Ephesians 2:10. I have nothing against these verses; I love them. But like that winter wardrobe, I want to dust off another passage that speaks the same truth over our lives.
…for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. ~ Isaiah 46:9-11
God is on mission (understatement of human history!). This purpose-filled fact could pre-occupy the rest of our days, but there’s more…
Jesus, the Father’s representative and the embodiment of heaven, has initiated an all-encompassing restoration project and He has scandalously co-missioned the broken, the outcasts, the used, the smelly, the sinners, and the misfits to be His agents and ambassadors for this restoration.
The problem is that many who have received the invitation to this ever-moving mission have turned it into an idle monument. What do I mean? Here are some marks of a stalemating movement:
-Our identity is not found in living for eternity but rather the moment devoid of the eternal. A potential retirement from our company takes precedence over potential rewards from our Christ.
-Our success is realized through the “American Dream” and not the Kingdom reality.
-We only celebrate the “good ol’ days” and “promises” of future escapism.
-Behavior modification is our modus operandi.
-We “go to Church,” instead of being the Church.
-It’s us versus them. We politicize and polarize in the name of piety.
-Adherence to the right code and confession is the goal. Unity is the same as uniformity and often the distinction between forms and functions, essentials and non-essentials is lost.
-Speaking of blurred lines, the difference between submission and control is also often blurred. Conformity to Christ is really unquestioned allegiance to the leadership’s established principles, or some consensus on the flock’s man-made rules/interpretations.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. And so I’m left with some questions:
What if the Spirit of God does not abide by some of our self-imposed, rigid standards?
What if God is asking us to remove the “boxes” we fight so hard to force Him in?
What if God isn’t as linear, “logical” (whatever that means!), predictable, white, suburban, or Western as we had presumed?
What if “knowing” God isn’t simply found in the comfort of our books, degrees, revered doctrines, or catechisms?
What if “fruit-inspecting” was to be an act of love rather than judgment and isolation?
If any of these questions resonate at all with you, you’re reading this for a reason!
So, what about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
If you recall, the story is about handling differences, especially when the status quo is not met or is challenged.
You’ve heard it said, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” What about an expectation scorned? How do we treat others when they do not fulfill our “God-given” expectations?
Rudolph was a non-conformist and this became a magnet for mockery and criticism. He was a source of shame for his family who strived to hide his abnormality. The only outcomes in environment’s lacking understanding, love, patience, and humility is division and isolation.
Hermey, the story’s other protagonist, was a non-conformist as well. He was an elf who aspired to be a dentist. Hilarious for us, but dangerous for him. Again, the difference in one was met with harassment and judgment from the others and isolation ensued.
The crowd of controlling conformists, those who find security and identity in “this is how it’s always been,” was the main antagonist for these characters. And if you noticed, self-respect and acceptance were the bait for conformity.
And if you did not conform, comply, or keep quiet, you were banished. Love is always conditional in these situations. Those who did not “measure up” were unloved and unwanted, and they could only find community with other “misfits” where they are always reminded of their rejection. Even in this community, loneliness was always present.
Perhaps, you have been treated as an outsider, dismissed as crazy, unloving, immature, or not submissive.
Maybe you have been silenced into conformity because you’re a troublemaker, someone who just won’t “get with the program.”
It may be that you were taught that blind obedience to a person with a certain position was obedience to Providence.
If you’ve ever dared to question the “sacred cows” in a particular context, you possibly were banished or at least treated as a “misfit.”
This can be a very traumatic experience and unfortunately, it’s all too common, especially in the Church where loving God and neighbor are supposed to be indivisible.
Access to the Scriptures plus a zeal for God are HUGE blessings we possess today, that many throughout history have not enjoyed, but these blessings sometimes operate like social media. Now, everyone’s a “master of divinity” and the rest of us need to “fall in line.”
But freedom must always be handled humbly and responsibly, otherwise Benjamin Martin’s question rings true:
“Why would I trade a tyrant 3,000 miles away for 3,000 tyrants one mile away?”
To all the Rudolph’s and Hermey, there’s HOPE for you! So in the words of Sam the Snowman, “Pull up an ice block and lend an ear!”
(photo courtesy: http://manhattaninfidel.org/2013/12/06/talking-snowman-who-sounds-a-lot-like-burl-ives-may-be-pure-evil/#.Why18baZORs)
I started following Christ when I was a teenager, and like most teens, my world was music at that time. Discovering music that helped me imbibe my new beliefs was a very difficult task, but I was up for the challenge.
During that process, I discovered a band called Skillet and I recall at one concert, lead singer John Cooper exhorted the audience to live as “aliens and strangers” in this world (see 1 Peter 2:11). Sounded familiar, until he took it a step further.
He told the Christians present to live such radical lives for Christ that we would seem as “aliens” not just to the world (because that’s easy) but to the Church.
Wait, what?! Aren’t Christians always supposed to get along and see eye to eye? Aren’t they on the same page? Not always, and oftentimes our differences come down to our priorities.
The idea John shared has always stuck with me — be so devoted to Christ that complacent, conforming Christians around me could not stand it!
Isn’t that a way we could summarize the ministry of Jesus, or the apostle Paul? The more they represented the Father, the wider the gap became between the rule-keeping know-it-alls and those led by the Spirit.
I think of people like Mother Theresa who taught us things like, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love” and, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” No one in their right mind would question her deep, other-worldly devotion to God and humanity. Just amazing but incredibly rare!
Or I think of someone like Craig Gross, founder of XXXChurch, who followed the call of God to minister to porn stars by purposely renting booths at their events to tell them that Jesus loves them. Crazy, right? Maybe not…
There are so many others. Francis Chan walking away from his mega-church, Shane Claiborne living amongst the poor in Philadelphia, Scott Harrison leaving his self-absorbed life to found Charity : Water, Hudson Taylor living as a missionary to China despite his loved ones dying, and on and on it goes.
There are always risks to living as a trail-blazer. There is a price to non-conformity. Purpose always calls us to paths where feet may fail.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. ~ 1 Peter 2:21
Rudolph and Hermey sing, “We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test of what is really best?”
We live for an audience of One. We live for our Savior, not our circumstances or the self-appointed squadrons.
Trust in God’s personal love for you. Trust that He, the creator of language and communication, will get the message through to you. And although you may fall on your face, trust that devotion to Him leaves no room for the reality of failure. He uses all things to develop His character in us and to bring glory to Himself.
Clarice told Rudolph that being different is what makes him so grand. It’s the same for us. Be different, not just to the world but to complacent, conformist Christianity. Inspire others for what is really possible, not just what is predictable.
Santa and the rest of Christmas Town realized that perhaps they’d been a little hard on the misfits. Maybe, the misfits have a place too? What about us? The Church?
God has a purpose. Those who belong to Him, therefore, also have purpose. It’s personal and it’s powerful. It’s unique and undignified.
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay.” ~ Acts 13:36
Keep the HOPE, misfits, as you conform to our conquering Christ.