I love Star Trek just as much as the next person, but I’m not sure it offers an appropriate or accurate theology for us as Christians to live by.
Most of us seem to think that once we become a Christian, we’re just supposed to sit around anxiously waiting for God to “rapture us up”! This becomes especially evident when we’re going through any sort of hardship in our lives: “Oh God, please just take me to heaven right now. I’m so sad/angry/depressed/sick/annoyed, and I just don’t want to go through it anymore.” Now, it’s not like we’re suicidal, but I would expect that there is a good chance that each of us has thought that at least once. I know I have multiple times. In fact, I recall most of those thoughts of mine occurring on the toilet… But you didn’t need to know that.
We get to this point where we feel all these emotions and just get so fed up that we want to give up. The problem with this is I think it can be an indicator that reveals to us our selfishness. It shows us that we think we’re in control. That we’re supposed to fix this world all on our own. So, instead, we get frustrated and hope that God will just take us out of the mission field - literally the opposite of what we’re made to do.
I think sometimes we may forget what our role is on this earth. I know I did until just recently. I took a look at the story in Genesis of when God created Adam and Eve.
"So God created man in His own image; He created them in the image of God; He created them male and female.” - Genesis 1:27
We are made to be image-bearing worshippers of God. Again, that’s probably another one of those Christian clichés that you hear all the time that has totally lost its meaning, so let me just unpack it a little.
Because we bear the image of God, we are representatives of His character, His righteousness, and His authority and reign. But, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we as humans don’t really do well to represent God. At least, I don’t think I’m close at all to being comfortable enough to say that I’m like God, or God is like me. We all failed (i.e. sin, the thing that messed up everything and is basically the focus of all I discuss in my blog posts). So God sent somebody who could actually do the job that we seem to fail at all the time. But He didn’t just send anybody. He sent His Son, Jesus.
Jesus was the perfect image-bearer.
Not only did Jesus come as an example, but he gave us the opportunity to renew our lives so that we can live them as they are meant to be lived.
It’s not a matter of remembering what things to do, and what things not to do. It’s not a matter of how well you can argue different points of your theology. And it sure as heck isn’t a matter of how many people you can condemn based on their actions. It’s the opposite.
C.S. Lewis uses an imperfect example that I thought was helpful. Imagine if you had a bunch of toy soldiers made of tin, but you thought it would be so crazy cool if they could be made real! Into tiny human beings. So you suddenly had powers like God and started turning their tin into flesh. You started improving their image-bearing ability to better represent you (kind of like how, why, and what Jesus did). But they didn’t like it. They’ve only ever known what it’s like to be tin. So they fight it. All they see is that the tin is getting ruined. They think you’re killing them!
But this is where tin soldiers differ from human beings (besides the initial fact that humans aren’t made of tin). If we as humans are refusing to be changed because we don’t want to leave what we’ve always known, we start to change our minds if we see someone who is enjoying that changed life. Then we want it. That’s just the way we are as humans. We’re like one big mass of humanity.
(This is the part where you stop reading because you were already familiar with C.S. Lewis’ example and are annoyed at how poorly I represented it - but I think I got my point across. wink wink)
So as image-bearers, our job is to - ON THIS EARTH, RIGHT NOW - live as God meant us to live and how Jesus did live. Our job as Christians is not to just accept a free ticket to heaven and wait impatiently to go as we watch (and secretly hope for) the world to crumble without God. No, we are created to go into the world, to be a part of the healing process and help to convince the other tin soldiers that being human isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s pretty awesome. We must spread throughout the world to unify the culture as image-bearing worshippers of our Creator, convincing them by our actions and not our words. Show them how amazing and fulfilling it is to live as Christ did.
It’s funny how complicated we can make Christianity at times. We seem to forget that it almost exclusively involves recognizing what Jesus did during his lifetime and living to the best of our ability like him. It’s not a matter of remembering what things to do, and what things not to do. It’s not a matter of how well you can argue different points of your theology. And it sure as heck isn’t a matter of how many people you can condemn based on their actions. It’s the opposite. KB, a gospel artist, conveys in a Bible devotional that our lives consist of daily opportunities to testify or to lie about God, and about Jesus, through our actions.
Once you realize what you have in Christ, and the example that we’re meant to live by, it’s no problem going out into the unreached parts of your town, your family, your school, your country, your world and testifying as true image-bearers. And that, truly, is the Final Frontier.
I’m not proud to say how long it took me to figure out how to copy and paste things using keyboard shortcuts, and since I have it has pretty much blown my mind. But you don’t care about my horribly lacking technological skills.
When I look at the people in our culture, and the values that we maintain, I can’t help but see how replicative we are. We seem to always preach individualism, but we all kind of fall into this trap of being exactly the same in how we are “individuals”. I don’t know. I think it’s hard to verbalize because it’s the weirdest paradox ever, but looking at people in general, I think it’s easy to see.
Everyone wants to be their own person. And how dare they! No, I’m just kidding. I think that’s awesome, and I thank God everyday that I was born in a society where I can literally be anything I want (except a pirate, but I’m getting over it). But I do find that we struggle to have actual original thoughts. We so easily just become what’s convenient for us.
I know I’m being really vague, and you’ve probably lost interest by now. If you haven’t, I thank you, and I promise to get to the point right away.
Generally, people seem to succumb to what is most popular. Especially in my generation (Generation Y, Generation iY, the Millenials, whatever you want to call us) we strive to be like the people we are around. Now, this isn’t a new thing. There’s the popular concept that your attitude, behaviour, finances, etc. is the average of your five closest friends, and this is just because we’re a relational species. I hope you’ve at least figured that much out.
But where the issue lies is when we refuse to think for ourselves. For my generation, it’s easy for us to think exactly how those around us do. We’re scared that someone might call us intolerant or stupid or - God forbid - wrong! No one wants to be wrong, but we sacrifice our own originality out of fear of someone telling us that they disagree with us. So what it comes down to is a bunch of relative ideals that are identical in how watered-down they are. No one really knows what they believe, and to be honest, it’s kind of troubling.
One of the most interesting things that I’ve experienced so far in my university career is the general consensus towards the idea of “God”. Now, when I first got here, I expected the majority to be very opposed to the idea of any sort of deity, mostly because I know that I go to a fairly prestigious school and the people who go here would consider themselves “too intelligent” for that (and trust me, there are people who feel that way). But what has surprised me is that most people just feel uncomfortable toward the idea. We don’t really have an idea or opinion of what God is, but we want something like that. Instead of addressing the issue - addressing the want, and frankly, the need - we boil down to the lowest common denominator. Nothing. And what hurts me most is that when I talk to people individually, they long SO MUCH for some sort of spirituality, but fear the condemnation and criticism from their peers.
Our longing to be liked right now trumps our desire to be loved forever.
So instead we dress the same, talk the same, act the same, drink the same, and eat the same. We go from fad to fad, trend to trend, because we just want to be accepted.
Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V; Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V; Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V
I like to think I have a firm set of beliefs, but even I find myself getting stuck in that rut. I don’t want to upset anyone because I want to be their friend. Sometimes I even use the excuse that I don’t want people to not like me because then they might have a bad idea about Christianity. Come on, Cole. Buck up.
But it’s true. Sometimes I find myself telling people that “I’m a C-C-C-Christian…” because I’m scared of how they’ll react, instead of knowing and expressing the love of Christ that I live in on a day-to-day basis.
So for my non-Christian friends, I challenge you to explore (for yourself) what you really believe and why. Not because I want to argue with you, tell you you’re wrong, or just disagree with you, but because I want you to stand firm in something for your own sake. To know what you live for and why is extremely comforting. We all long for purpose, so find that purpose and be strong.
And for my Christian brothers and sisters, remember the love and grace that you live in. I don’t mean just think about it. I mean live it out. Act like you’re loved so that others can know and feel that love. Attract people to yourself by living how Christ did. That’s what is going to grow the Kingdom of God. Not arguing or debating.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)
Don’t be afraid to stand out, because frankly everyone else is thinking exactly what you’re thinking. Everyone feels the same way you do, but no one is willing to say it. Do something different tomorrow. Look at yourself in the mirror and think of one thing that you can do to make yourself stand out as an individual. It’ll completely change your outlook and attitude in life. I can guarantee it.
Until then, I’ll just be here learning about how to use a keyboard like a normal person, and hoping that we can all just hit Ctrl+T and start a new tab in our life. (You ordered the extra cheesy, right?)
I admit, I didn’t try very hard with the title. But it’s true. We’re all way more religious than we give ourselves credit for.
Of course, no one wants to be considered religious. Especially those who represent the connotative meaning of being religious; like Christians, who don’t want at all to be associated with the horrible acts that have been done in the name of Jesus over the last 2000 or so years. And I don’t blame them! I don’t want to either. But I don’t think we should be falsifying or simplifying our spirituality because of it.
Frankly, if you - as a Christian - don’t recognize that believing Jesus and following him turn out differently than the Crusades, you’ve got some re-examining to do.
To affiliate modern Christians (or all of Christianity) with the gruesome and despicable deeds that have been committed in Jesus’ name is just as unfair as if I were to identify a modern-day atheist with a Nazi.
It’s true; just think about it.
If two people share a set of beliefs, yet act in opposite ways of each other, it’s a little unfair to group them together … but that’s just my opinion. (See above examples).
But that’s just kind of an awkward segue into what I really meant to talk about. I used atheism as an example to show that I do believe it’s a religion like anything else. Atheists are religious. But I don’t mean to focus on atheism either.
I just mean to convey that everyone is religious. Everyone has a system of beliefs (i.e. religion) that they adhere to. Thusly, adhering to such a system of beliefs makes one religious.
I don’t care if your “religion” focuses on divinity or on what a person should be doing on a Friday night: practicing within this set of beliefs makes you religious.
The reason I wanted to make this distinction is because I can’t stand when people say that they’re not “religious”. I know exactly what they mean: “I don’t go to church, I don’t believe in a god/deity, and I don’t necessarily have a set of values or morals that are written down or pre-established .” Which is fine, but it assumes a certain lack of responsibility. It allows that person to think they aren’t accountable to anything or anyone. Just to themselves.
I don’t believe that’s possible. Everyone is a slave to something. Just because you get to chose your master, does NOT make you any less a slave.
I CHOOSE to be a slave to Christ. If you want me to unpack that idea, you’ll have to ask me later.
You CHOOSE to be a slave to absolutely anything. School, money, fame, success … the list goes on. And don’t think for a second that who or what you choose to serve is any different than what I choose (except for the eternal reward that I receive from my Master, but that’s also a conversation for another time).
If you spend the whole week looking forward to the weekend because you know you can drink more alcohol than last weekend, your religion is drunkenness. You WORSHIP drunkenness. If you can’t stop thinking about the last time you had sex (or the next time you’ll have sex with another person), your religion is sex. You WORSHIP sex. And I don’t say worship in a metaphorical sense; I do mean quite literally.
So until you identify what you give your thoughts, time, effort, and care to, you won’t know what you also give your freedom to. Realizing your master allows you to either change the path you’re already on, or remain content with where you’re headed. Either way, you don’t have any excuse to be disappointed with where you end up in life.
All you have to thank for the way your life turns out is you - and the religion you choose.
So I wanted to talk a little about the Bible. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh come on Cole, the Bible is boring. It’s just a lame old book full of rules - “
I’m gonna stop you right there. (And yes I did just interrupt you in a hypothetical, set-up comment. Deal with it.) The belief that the Bible is a rulebook has been one of the most dangerous thoughts throughout all of history. People have used it as a measuring tool to test the righteousness of other people and then punish them when they don’t fulfill the user’s expectations.
But any intelligent person who has actually READ the Bible will know it’s not that.
The Bible is more of a story. And I know what you’re thinking, “Pfft Cole you just said you believe in something that is just a fictitious piece of work used for entertainment.” No, I didn’t say that. Stop it with the ignorant hypotheticals, Mr. Reader.
It’s a story, but it’s history. Whoa. HIS story, history (there’s another Christian cliché you can use). But seriously. It’s a story about God’s interactions with humans throughout history. More importantly though, it’s about one interaction where God came to earth as Jesus. Of course, I know that you’ve heard that a hundred thousand times whether you’re Christian or not, but it has some pretty serious implications if it’s true.
I think that’s one of the biggest problems with people who may not agree with Christianity, or the Bible. It’s because they’ve never read the Bible. “But Cole, I went to Sunday school when I was 6 years old so I know exactly what’s in the Bible. There’s Goliath, a giant fish, and a bunch of flannel graphs.” And when I was 6 years old, I was pretty sure eating what came from my nose was a good idea, but I had to revisit that belief once I got older. So maybe try and revisit yours.
Not knowing what the Bible is (or says) is a problem because it allows a person to misrepresent the idea in their head. Even worse than that, in this case, people decide what Christianity is based on Christians. Please please PLEASE! Don’t do that! That’s basically the worst possible idea ever. Especially if you’re using me. Figure it out for yourself.
So when you’re thinking that Christianity is just a bunch of people who listen to a bunch of rules that were written down a couple thousand years ago, please pull your finger out of your nose and try again. That’s honestly the direct opposite of what Christianity is. I say that because the guy who the belief system is based off of (i.e. Jesus) was constantly fighting with the people who were following, and administering, the rules.
But, of course, you wouldn’t know that if you’ve never actually read the Bible.
Once somebody has the idea in their head that the Bible is just a bunch of rules, the second that person sees “slavery” in the Bible, they immediately jump to the conclusion that “Christianity endorses slavery! Rah Rah, look at these terrible hypocrites!” Similarly, that’s why I think there’s such a ridiculous tension between Christianity and the secular world on the topic of homosexuality. Most people on BOTH sides don’t really know what the Bible says, so they fight this ridiculous, waste-of-time battle that will literally get us nowhere. But that’s a topic for another day.
To be totally honest, I think the issue lies in the fact that nobody really realizes the importance of the fact that there MAY VERY WELL BE A GOD. And if you go through your life refusing to deal with that issue and REALLY figure it out for yourself, I can’t say it’s an intelligent decision. People are just okay with basing their “facts” of a set of beliefs on a person who is supposed to be representing them, rather than the actual source of the beliefs. That’s like deciding post-secondary education is a bad idea because somebody dropped out (or at least did a horrendous job while they were there). “Ahh well, I’ll just figure out another way to become a doctor.” No, if post-secondary education is what you want/need but you throw it away because of some weirdo who marches around picketing soldiers’ funerals (ahem, oops, sorry I think I’m mixing up analogies), I don’t really feel that bad for you.
This isn’t an issue of some opinionated “Christian” trying to tell all of his Facebook friends that they need to become Christians too. This is a challenge being extended to everyone to strive for a wider perspective. Don’t let yourself get caught up in your bubble. It happens to all of us because it’s comfortable, but it’s not what’s going to take us to a place of peace. Unless you can say verbatim what another person believes - and they can agree with what you’ve said - then you really don’t understand the issue at hand at all.