I'm OK -- You're Not

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781600060571
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2007
  • Pages: 171
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.45 (d)

First Chapter

Chapter One
Oh, Say Can We Seeeeee Them?
Whether you're a Christian or not (and, let's face it, if you're reading this book you probably are), you're already familiar with the Great Divide that exists in this country between Christians and Normies. (In case you skipped the introduction, by "Normies," I mean regular, everyday people who haven't exactly spent so much of their lives praying that now their knees are shot. Book intros and God: First Things that are totally necessary, yet tempting to ignore because they so often seem too somber and imposing to be actually engaging. Really makes you think, doesn't it? Now get back there, Skippy, and read that intro!) On one side of our national cultural divide are the non-believing Normies, dancing and smoking and engaging in all kinds of behaviors we Christians wouldn't be caught dead even thinking about in the middle of the night when we're wide awake and everyone else is asleep and our computer's just sitting there like a golden ticket to Secret Shimmering Excitement Land-and we Christians are here on the other side, trying to please God. (And constantly failing at it, of course, and then feeling guilty about that, and then-praise the Lord!-turning back to God, and availing ourselves of his boundless grace and mercy, and then . . . well . . . you know the routine.)
And the two sides-We Christians and Those Normies-pretty much stay in their own camps.
As (I think) the great Robert Frost so elegantly put it: "East is East and West is West / And everyone likes their own kind best" (from Frost's classic, "People: I'd Trade 'Em All for a Decent Bowl of Oatmeal").
Poetry is so beautiful.
It seems obvious enoughthat the primary reason Christians and Normies tend to stay so isolated from each other is because it's just so much easier and rewarding to talk to someone with whom you share a whole host (so to speak) of core values. If you're a Christian, you know how it sometimes feels as if you couldn't get a decent conversation going with a Normie if the two of you were being held captive on an alien spaceship. It's like you could have both experienced totally rude Martian Probing-and you still wouldn't have all that much in common. You'd both be standing upright, your arms tied behind you around gleaming silver Spaceship Poles, and your conversation would only amount to something along the lines of:
YOU: Boy. Just wait'll my pastor back home hears about this.
NORMIE: I'll bet.
YOU: He and I are definitely going to have to go back over the book of Genesis together, I can tell you that.
NORMIE: Oh. Sure.
YOU: Don't recall any space aliens in there.
NORMIE: Guess not.
YOU: I mean, you always hear about Martians being crazy and obnoxious, but until you actually experience it, you really have no idea.
NORMIE: That's true.
YOU: You must be completely freaked. I know I am.
NORMIE: I'm pretty hungry, actually. I could really go for a double cheeseburger.
YOU: Really? You're hungry?
YOU: Well, I guess you're in luck, then-what are the chances that they don't have a McDonald's on whatever planet they're taking us to? Ha, ha. [Long pause] I was coming home from my Bible study group when the aliens got me. How 'bout you?
NORMIE: I was at home watching TV.
YOU: Wow. That's really awful.
YOU: You must have been terrified.
NORMIE: It was pretty scary, that's for sure.
YOU [Long pause]: What were you watching?
NORMIE: Friends. That's such a great show. I thought that thing with Rachel and Ross got a little boring, though.
YOU: [Long pause]: I've never really seen that show.
YOU: [Long pause.] I've heard it's great, though.
NORMIE: Yeah. It is.
YOU: It's pretty funny, right?
NORMIE: Right.
YOU [Long pause]: Funny's good.
NORMIE: Funny's great.
YOU: Yeah
See? Flat as Terrible Movie dialogue. Because in order for any two people-much less any two strangers-to really click, they've got to share something in common significantly more profound than working in the same place, or living in the same neighborhood, or even being held captive together on the same alien spaceship.
Which is precisely why whenever you put just about any two Christians together, they start clicking like a Geiger Counter at a leaky nuclear power plant.
As an example of the Clicking Christian phenomenon, I recall the time, about two weeks after I converted, when right after a Sunday service, a fellow believer to whom I was being introduced stuck out his hand, and with Maximum Good Cheer said to me, "So you're the guy who had the sudden conversion in the supply closet at his job, right?"
"Right," I said, shaking his hand. "That did happen to me."
"And that was, what, about two weeks ago? Amazing! Praise the Lord! So, has your whole life turned to [expletive deleted, because you can't in any way curse in a book intended for a Christian audience] yet?"
As I continued smiling, I thought: "Wow, this guy is so going to hell for bellowing out [expletive deleted] right here in church. I better back away; he might just spontaneously combust." No-what I really thought was, "Wow! What a great conversation this already is!" (What my new friend was referring to, of course, was how the Lord, once he decides to insist it belongs to him, can totally ravage your life. As any adult Sudden Convert knows, in some ways being born again can be almost as [non-biologically] messy as being born the first time.)
"You wouldn't believe what happened to me after I converted!" continued Joe Jovial. "Within a month of finding the Lord, I'd lost my job, and my girlfriend-and I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease! Turns out I had cancer!" He looked positively ecstatic. "Isn't that unbelievable?!"
"Wow," I said. "It really is."
Then he told me how he "beat the crap" out of his cancer-and we went on, right there in the middle of our church's packed lobby, to have the most wonderful conversation about God, physical pain, relationship pain, and pretty much Everything That Counts.
And after we'd shaken hands again and agreed to have lunch together sometime, I thought: "So. That's how Christians who don't even know each other relate to each other!"
Bounding down the stairs away from the church, I thought: "Sweet! Bring me more Christians!"
It felt so great, belonging to a club in which everyone shared the same profoundly important beliefs-and were so often so refreshingly open about what those beliefs really meant to them.
I come from a family where you couldn't get a decent conversation going about anything real if someone barfed up the Holy Grail right in the middle of dinner.
This was better!
Of course, in The Very Best World Ever (or in at least one version of it), everyone would be Christian. How cool would that be? How great would it be if you could just walk down the street, and cry out, "I'm feelin' God's love!" without getting instantly mugged by offended strangers? Driving by your neighbors, you'd be able to roll down your window and call to them, "Hallelujah!" without later worrying you'd forced them to sell their house and move to Tibet. You'd be able to say on a city bus, "C'mon, everybody! Let's pray and thank the Lord!" without . . . well . . . being reminded that municipal buses and spontaneous exclamations about God are One Bad Combo.
In that fabulous, all-Christian world you'd be able to, say, hang around the company water cooler at your job, and instead of talking with your coworkers about the movie you saw the weekend before, or how it seems to rain every single time you wash your car, or about some other thing you kind of care about but that wouldn't exactly overwhelm you on your deathbed, you'd instead talk with them about what sins you've lately been burdened with, and what you're going to do about getting yourself right with God again, and about how grateful you are that no matter how far you stray from the love of the Lord, he's always right there, patiently and lovingly waiting for you to renounce evil, turn around, and come back home.
And they would hug you.
And they would pray for you.
And all of you would feel in your hearts the boundless, shining mercy of God, whose presence you would sense amongst you as surely as you'd hear the water gurgling in the bottle beside you.
Go ahead.
Dare to dream it.
Dare to imagine a world in which everyone is a brother or sister in Christ.
Feel the love.
Okay, that's enough. You can stop dreaming about that now.
I say: You can stop dreaming about that.
C'mon, now. I'm serious. That's enough.
Stop dreaming about a world where everyone's a Christian!
And do you know why you (and I) need to stop dreaming about a world in which everyone is Christian? Because we're human. And a really big part of being human is trying to get what we want. And if we want a world wherein everyone's a Christian, then that's going to trigger our desire to fulfill the Great Commission.
And that means that we're going to go out there, and start witnessing, or evangelizing, or proselytizing, or doing something to try to change someone who isn't a Christian into one.
And that, I'm afraid, is when we're going to be in very grave danger of becoming exactly the sort of Christian who (alas) is so often seen by Normies as being little if anything but pushy, dogmatic, and alienating.
Again (and again and again): I would be the last person on the planet to deny the absolute importance of delivering the Good News to people who have either requested it or never gotten it at all. If someone hasn't yet heard of Jesus Christ, it's imperative that we who believe make sure they do hear that word. No Christian in the world would even think about questioning that.
It's the "hasn't yet heard of Jesus Christ" part that I think at this point in the history of our faith deserves our attention. I'm convinced that these days one of the most important things we need to bear in mind about the Great Commission is its historical context. I just don't see any way around how critical it is for us to remember that when Christ directed his disciples to get out there and spread his message, almost no one in the world had even heard of him yet. The story of God's coming to earth as a man had happened so recently that it was . . . well, still happening. Then it was a Great Commission-then it was the commission to beat all commissions, and no doubt about it. Once the first disciples received their famous marching orders, it was Beyond Important that they get right out there, start knocking on strangers' doors, and start saying to whomever answered something like:
"Hello there. You don't know me-and please excuse me, right now, for how weird I know this is going to sound-but, well, you know how these days a lot of people believe in just one God-in one huge, all-powerful Super Entity, who exists up in the heavens somewhere, and who sees and knows everything that ever happens anywhere in the world? You're familiar with that concept, right? Okay, well-and again, I know somewhere in here you're bound to start thinking that I'm making a bid for the position of Village Idiot, but if you could just bear with me-it turns out there is just one God! And what happened, see, is that that God became a man! Yeah, a regular man, just like . . . well, not just like any other man, but close enough. And this God-man came down to earth, see, and he performed all these miracles-healing people, driving demons away, raising people from the dead, even-and then, right outside of Jerusalem, he was crucified by Roman soldiers!
"No, I'm not kidding. It really happened! It was horrible. You honestly didn't hear anything about it? You probably noticed when it actually affected the weather, though, didn't you? Again, with the am I kidding-no, I'm not kidding! Does this sound like the kind of thing a person would joke about? Didn't you notice at around noon on-well, gosh, I guess it's already four weeks ago this Friday-when all of a sudden the whole sky turned dark? Didn't you see that?
"You didn't? What, are you kidding? How could you have missed something like that? Oh, I see you don't have any windows in your hut. Then you must have been inside at the moment of this terrible and wondrous event, because it wasn't something you could miss. Everyone went berserk over it. Dark as night, in the middle of the day! One minute it's hot, you're sweating, you're casting a shadow-and the next, boom!-you can't see your hand in front of your face. Truly amazing. Surely you read something about it in The Weekly Tablet? No? That's odd; they did a whole top-of-the-slab story on it. Well, no, I don't know if it was the headline story or not-probably not, now that I think of it, since that was the week the Jerusalem Wild Donkeys finally beat the Amman Giants in the All-Palestine Olympics. But believe me, everyone was talking about what happened. And I have a feeling everyone's going to be talking about it for a very long time to come. Interested in hearing more about it yourself? Sure, we can talk while you pulverize dates. My own mother was a top-notch pulverizer of dates-but my father married her anyway!"
So, let's see . . . that would be one of the lesser known disciples, Chatticus.
No, but of course at the dawn of Christianity it was essential for everyone In The Know to get out there, and do everything they could to make sure people everywhere heard the brand-new news. That simply had to happen. If it hadn't, then today we'd all probably be worshiping the wheel, or yeast, or something. Proselytizing was vital when Paul was doing (the heck!) out of it; it was vital when the Goths and Vandals were . . . I don't know . . . throwing rocks at and Generally Hassling all the indentured serfs who were just trying to get a little shut-eye before their next big day on the mud farm; it was something we might have expected Buzz Aldrin to do if he, Neil Armstrong, and . . . that other guy . . . had come across anyone on the moon.
And it goes without saying that we Christians all hope and pray that someday the moon is how far away we'll have to go in order to find someone who has yet to hear the story of Jesus. In an effort to realize that dream, legions of loving, intrepid Christians are currently doing us all proud by delivering the Good News to every last corner of the world. Praise be to those brave hearts! And we here at home are certainly doing our part to support those good Christian workers. As far as I know, just about every church in America helps support some missionary, somewhere.
Not too long after becoming a Christian I got a job with a Rescue Mission as Guy Who Goes Around To Churches And Tells Them About The Rescue Mission So They'll Donate Money To It. In that capacity I visited a lot of churches, and met with a lot of (the very nicest!) missionary committee members. And being so new to the faith I was just amazed to discover how every single church I visited had or was supporting someone, somewhere: In Central America, South America, Africa, Russia, China, the Middle East, Des Moines . . . everywhere. Hanging up inside the sanctuary of one megachurch I visited were giant, parade-worthy flags from every country in which its congregants had stationed missionaries. It was like being inside the United Nations building. I recognized maybe two of the flags. I drove the poor woman beside me on the pew crazy.
"Where's that one from?" I whispered, pointing to one of the flags. "The green one there, with the black triangles."
She looked up at the flag, and then back at me. "Ghaznia," she whispered. (Or something like that; I couldn't quite make her out.)
"What about the one next to it, with the red circles?" I whispered.
"How about that bright yellow one over there?"
"What about . . ."
"I'm sorry, but do you mind? This isn't The Travel Channel. It's church. I'm trying to hear the pastor."
She was right, of course: We were at church. So of course I did the right thing: I apologized to her, faced front-and then, right after the very next hymn, "accidentally" sat down on her program.
Anyway, it's wonderful the way we're carrying to the remotest parts of the world the story that means so very much to us. But what for our purposes here is important to bear in mind is that in America today there are very few, if any, places where the story of Jesus hasn't already penetrated, but deeply. Christianity is so integral to the history and culture of our country that there'd have to be something truly unique about a person's upbringing and/or life for them to have grown up in or spent any real time in America and not at least know who Jesus was, what his relationship was to God, and why Christians believe in him as we do.
The practical fact is that if we go out to evangelize in Anytown, USA, we're pretty much guaranteed to run into one of two kinds of (grown-up) people: those who are already Christian, and those who have already decided that they don't want to be Christian.
And of course it's the latter group with whom I think we'd do well to consider changing both the motivation for and substance of our interactions, because they've already decided that Christianity isn't their cup of tea. Using their God-given minds and freewill, these rational, sane, fully functional people have concluded that the overall good of their hearts and souls is best served in a way that's different from the way we believe God nurtures ours.
Not to be too Johnny One Note or anything, but for us to continue to convey to someone who is consciously aware that they don't want something the message that, in fact, they do want that thing but just haven't yet realized it, can only create a dynamic wherein the person we're trying to "help" pretty instantly becomes extremely clear about one thing, anyway, which is that they don't want to be around us anymore at all.
And then, as soon as they possibly can, they leave us.
And then we're left alone, clutching our Bible, wondering if there was some other way we could have more effectively communicated our message, something else we might have said that wouldn't have turned them off.
But there is no such thing.
And there won't ever be such a thing.
And that's a fact that I'm thinking it's time we just acknowledged.
"I am often distressed at the way some Christians take as a given that Christians and Christianity define goodness. Many of we non-Christians make a practice of doing good; we, too, have a well-developed ethical system, and are devoted to making the world a better place. Christians hardly have a monopoly on what's right, or good, or just."-C.R., Seattle
"I feel that Christians have got it all wrong; it seems to me that they've created the very thing Jesus was against: Separatism."-T. O., Denver
"Many of the 'God fearing' Christians I've met over the years who have tried to convince me to attend their church and stop living a sinner's life were among the most immoral people I've ever met. Whatever happened to 'Thou shall not judge'? I live a good life. I'm a firm believer in karma, and am therefore very thoughtful of my actions and words. I strive to cause no harm to any person or animal. I have raised my children to respect their elders; to say please, thank you, and excuse me; to hold the door for others, etc. I am often told what wonderfully polite and respectful children I have. I am happily married, and would never cheat on my husband. I do not lie; I do not steal; I would never dream of causing ill will to anyone-and yet, to a Christian, I am nothing more than a sinner condemned to hell. It is that very narrow-mindedness that has driven me far from Christianity. To make matters worse, often the very people who try to persuade me to convert to Christianity lie, backstab, have adulterous affairs, have unruly children, and are the first to start kicking someone when they're down. I am now a Buddhist, and for that I thank every Christian I have ever met."-H. W., Phoenix
"Quite frankly, I get annoyed when evangelicals approach me. They somehow think they have an inside track on all things spiritual and that their version of reality is the only one. For an evangelical Christian to try to tell me that his and only his faith is the one true faith is either the height of arrogance or the depth of ignorance. Everyone has the right to believe whatever he or she finds comforting to believe, but no one has the right to try to force their beliefs on others."-B. P., Kansas City, MO
"Christians seem to have lost their focus on Jesus' core message: 'Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.'"-R. M., Tacoma, WA
Talk Amongst Yourselves
How real do you think the "Great Divide" is between Christians and Normies in America? What's been your personal experience trying to bridge that divide?
Do you prefer the company of Christians to that of Normies? Why or why not?
What do you think (or know) that it's like being inside the mind of a person who doesn't ascribe to any particular religion at all? If you've always been Christian, do you think you can even begin to guess what it's like to be a Normie?
Are there any ways in which you think the world might not be a better place if everyone in it were Christian?
Do you think there's any chance that that woman believed that I sat on her bulletin by accident?
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