Friday, November 5, 2010

I Yam What I Yam...

(photo from
He is a middle aged sailor with thinning hair, a "squinky" eye, bulging forearms, a corncob pipe, 2 anchor tattoos, and a can of spinach hidden somewhere on his person. He's not much to look at, and even less to listen too, with a voice that can be described as "gravelly" at best, but he is what he is. He'll even tell you that, "I yam what I yam, and that's all that I yam."

I grew up with Popeye. I guess it was already in syndication by then, but it was a staple of my cartoon diet as a kid. I loved the constant good vs. bad scenarios and the way that Popeye loved Olive Oyl. I even loved the fact that Bluto, every now and then, had a soft moment. It very seldom lasted very long, but it happened occasionally.

Without going back and researching every episode, I can't remember any, or at the very least, many times when Popeye pretended to be something other than what he was...a sailor with a weak spot for a skinny brunette. I'm sure it happened, but I can't think of any at the moment, and I have to say that is what I appreciate about him.

He didn't pretend. "I yam what I yam, and that's all that I yam." I love that! It is so transparent and honest. When you tuned in you got the same Popeye today that you would get tomorrow. If a cartoon can be real, he was. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Scripture even gives us some examples.

The Life Journal readings for today come from Job and Galatians. Paul, if indeed Paul wrote the letter to the folks in Galatia, is writing to encourage them to stand strong in the face of persecution. Evidently things were getting tough in Galatia and the church was beginning to see that this wasn't going to be easy. Not even the leadership in the early church was exempt from the struggle.

Paul listed three men who were "pillars" of the early movement; James, John, and Cephas. But there was a problem. One of three wasn't exactly what he appeared to be. Paul says that he even "opposed him to his face" in Antioch because of it. You see, Cephas had no problem sitting down at the table with his Gentile buddies, and I can imagine they would laugh and cut up, and have a large time together. But...when certain folks came into town, Cephas abandoned his Gentile buddies. Why? Because it would look bad for him to be seen eating and carrying on with them. They weren't circumcised and therefore, weren't some of "ours."

Now, I certainly understand and appreciate the power of self preservation, but I think it would have been a lot better for all involved had Cephas just been honest. Either tell the Gentiles that he couldn't eat with them because it was against Jewish law, or tell the men that came from James that he was called by God to include even the Gentiles in his kingdom work. Popeye would have.

What if we in the Church were that honest on a global scale? I mean, one of the greatest condemnations I have heard about the Church is that it's full of hypocrites. I'm sure you've heard that too. So what if we could fix that? I know it wouldn't solve all of our problems, but that would be one less image to overcome.

Just be who you are, as individuals, and as churches. I guarantee that folks will appreciate the honesty. They might not come worship with you, but they will appreciate the honesty. The question we have to ask ourselves, then, is: "Are we ok with that?"


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