We Called Them Robots
When I was an adolescent, I had a buddy who was like a brother. We’d do everything together, from smoking stolen Benson & Hedges cigarettes to wakeboarding to playing video games. You know, productive stuff that teenagers do.
At night when I’d stay over at his house, we’d have conversations late into the night. We’d drink some high fructose corn syrup beverage and talk about music and life and girls and what not – topics that we were fascinated by but had no knowledge of. We would also talk about God and Christianity.
My friend was and still is an atheist. At some point he was an agnostic but I think he’s strengthened his position to full-on atheist. We talked about the fact that many people blindly assume faith in Jesus and go through the programmed motions. Their parents say go to church, so they do. They go to youth group and paste on a smile and seclude themselves from non-Christians for fear of exposure to the difficult questions. This type of paper thin faith is easy to burn a hole through with a heavy dose of chemo or a well-timed question.
We called them robots.
The robots are afraid to step outside the happy-faced norm for fear of what mom and dad might think. Or maybe terrified that hell itself sits outside the boundaries of a charismatic worship session. Because “the world” is the enemy, these characters of compliance try to stay out of the world, but if they do venture across the line outside of their comfortable setting, they might hide or worse, start yelling on a street corner.
I’m not hating, I promise. I am one of these goofy robots way too often, even if I’d never say it that way or admit it. As bad as I loathe the robot way of life, I know the paths quite well.
If we follow Jesus, he will lead us into dark places. If we want to eat with him, we’ll need to eat with prostitutes, greed mongers, and criminals. If we want to travel with him, we’ll need to head to places that aren’t “safe for the whole family.”
The problem isn’t “the world.” It’s me. And that is why Jesus engaged with sinners like me. You see, when we see him eating with messy broken people it’s too easy to think, that’s very missional of you, Jesus. Instead, we should see our faces at the table.
We don’t commune with Jesus by speaking a common vernacular or attending a certain type of church or listening to Christian music. Further, let me avoid leaning too far in the opposite direction as well. You don’t get more authentic just by getting a sleeve of tats or meeting at a bar for Bible study. If we operate by the anti-conformist agenda, we’ll just be a different breed of poser bent on not being something. We’ll all look remarkably similar while we’re trying desperately to be different.
You don’t have to be any certain type of person to follow Jesus. He met fishermen where they were, in their boats after a day on the water. He met tax collectors in trees and he met drifters on the road. The point is this: God made you to be your own weird self. You are an oddity and you should be, because your DNA formula is unlike anyone else’s. Your life circumstances have only happened to you. Your pains, your deformities, your insecurities, and your talents are yours and yours alone – gifts from God to make you who you are.
Can we drop our guard and knock it off, then? Can we – can I – stop trying to be a type of person and simply be. It seems humble to dislike who we are or to think little of ourselves, but that’s not humble – it’s sad. And frankly, if you think about it, it’s highly disrespectful of the Artist who made you. Nice painting, God. Not sure if you noticed but my nose is too big and my hair fell out.
My buddy was honest with himself and other people. He didn’t believe in God and thought it was goofy. At least he was – is – honest and true to what he thinks. It may be a sad, hopeless position, but it is somehow less sad than the person who seeks happiness in a cultural norm and then meets Jesus for the first time and he says, “I never knew you.” My buddy would say, “Yeah, likewise.” The robot would say, “But I went to church and sang the right songs. I was a good person! I only said shoot dang when I was really upset!”
Jesus says to these people, “I never knew you.” Despite their religious trappings of Christianity, Jesus did not know them and they did not know him. What is inviting about this verse (Matthew 7:23) is that this means Jesus intends to know and be known. He intends for us to have a relationship with him, a deep fellowship and a loving bond. He intends for us to share experiences with him, whether it be in raw prayer or watching a whale explode through the slick surface of the ocean.
Jesus is the most dynamic, likable person ever to have trod the terra of this planet. He wasn’t just a lamb, he was a lion. He wasn’t just a sacrifice, he was a warrior. He was fun and yet reverent when the time was right. He still is, having risen from a stinking cave and leaving his Spirit to live within us.
Jesus bought the church with the blood that ran down the cross. The church is referred to in the Bible as the bride of Christ, whom he willingly died for. The church is the group of people that place their lives in Jesus and seek him with all they are. And yes, the church can be a building and an institution. It can be denominational or non-denominational. And doctrine is a very serious matter of utmost importance. But let us not forget that the uniqueness our relationship with Jesus will not fit into a mold. Jesus is scandalously unfit for a tribe or clique or people group. He is at home with his people in Burma just like he’s at home with his people in Indianapolis. Jesus is exclusive in regards to salvation – it only comes through him – but he is quite inclusive when he invites all of us to the table.
Photo credit: m anima via Flickr