Thursday, March 25, 2010

Don't Be So Wishy Washy Charlie Brown...

I love that little bald headed kid. I grew up reading all of the books, and watching him try to kick the football, knowing that Lucy was going to pull it away just as he got there. He was always a champion for the underdog, even if that underdog was a Christmas tree. He took good care of his pal Snoopy, and Snoopy's pal Woodstock. He was one of the only ones that didn't make fun of Linus for sitting up waiting for the Great Pumpkin, but still got only rocks in his trick or treat bag.

Good times, good times. Life was certainly simpler when the Peanuts gang was a priority. I didn't have to think about much then. I just tried not to break any more bones. I didn't have to worry about whether or not what I said would offend someone, or whether someone in the church was watching me (living in a glass house is no fun, no fun at all sometimes). There were no bills to pay, no responsibilities. I didn't have to find time to put brakes on the car or fix the light fixture in the bedroom. All I had to do was live life, and the Peanuts gang was a big part of that.

Charlie Brown did have one character flaw though. He was wishy washy. Do you know what that means? The boy couldn't make a decision if his life depended on it, and if he did make one, he could be easily swayed. Not good, not good at all. I mean, it's not that big a deal for a 10 year old boy who's only real responsibility is feeding his dog, but what about when that 10 year old boy grows up? At some point, you have to start making decisions and part of that is deciding what you stand for. The Peanuts gang taught me much about morals, but they are not the only teachers I have had.

Paul was kind of wishy washy, a lot like Charlie Brown. At least it might appear so. Ok, I'm catching up from yesterday now. I could have just skipped yesterday's readings and gone on to today, but I really wanted to hit on this passage from 1st Corinthians. For me, Paul is at his absolute best when he is being wishy washy in Chapter 9 of 1st Corinthians. Here's what he says:
"Though I am free, and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law. To the weak, I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some."

Come on Paul, you can't be everything to everybody, can you? Well, maybe you can try. The way I read this one is a little hard to explain. It's not about being whatever, and not standing up for anything, it's about realizing that folks process differently, I think. The Jews, then, saw things differently than did the Gentiles (those not having the law), so if Paul had said or done the same things with the Gentiles that he had done with the Jews, it wouldn't have worked. It would have been a total waste of time. The Gentiles weren't familiar with Jewish custom, so if Paul had brought his Jewish roots into the conversation, or to the dinner table, he would have totally lost them.

Here's what I have done with this...Paul, in this passage, gives me permission to become what I have to become to reach as many folks as I can reach. And here's how it breaks down for me. First, you have to know who you're talking to, and here's why. When I'm around my biker buddies, church folk talk won't work. If I'm going to reach one of my biker buddies, I had better not have on a tie. Instead, a black leather jacket, a leather doo rag, and sunglasses are in order. If I'm having a conversation with one of my older church members, a leather doo rag might be seen as an insult. I'm the same guy in both. I don't take off one persona and put on another. It's more about recogizing the differences in the folks I'm talking to.

And that is where the church, in my eyes, has dropped the ball big time. We haven't done that, and still don't even today (at least not most churches). We have one mold, and folks conform to that mold, or there's not really a place for them, and I got a little dose of that this week. Paul would have something to say about that, and I'm afraid, so would Jesus. This is one aspect of church that I have committed the rest of my days to undoing. It makes me really sad, (and I'm being honest and transparent here,) to look out across the congregation and see that everyone looks alike, is dressed alike, and thinks alike. To me, that says that we are not becoming all things to all people, so that by all possible means we might save some.

Now, please understand, I'm not advocating that we throw out everything we've got and start doing whatever just to get folks in the door, I'm not. There are churches that do that, I'm sure, and they are probably growing. But that's cheap theology. I'm saying, let's take a look around at the folks in the neighborhood. Do they look like the folks in our church? If not, what have we NOT done to be what they need us to be? And what do we have to become to reach them?


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