Engaging Arrow (S2E11)

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As an exercise in discernment, continuing what we started in the Engaging Culture class in 2014, I decided to check out an episode of Arrow and see what its worldview is and what it espouses either on purpose or by accident. I’m going to write as the show happens:

The creepy alderman Sebastian Blood visits his mother,  who is in stuck in a hospital by Blood under his aunt’s name, and finds out that she spoke to Laurel. He says he forgives her then dons his Blood mask and kills her. Using forgiveness as a sort of morality in bad guys is tried and true. The idea that the bad guy follows a set of rules is supposed to give them a level of depth. Kinda shallow though. Nothing moral about this.

Sarah and Oliver are on the island via flashback. He tells her that you can’t trust anyone. So dramatic.

Laurel is notified that Sebastian Blood’s mother in the hospital died. She tries to enlist help but the ADA says she is on her own. Everyone in this show is on their own.

Oliver visits Roy who won’t tell anything about Blood. He is on his own.

Oliver and team discuss the need to stop Blood. Duh.

Arrow is requested by Laurel for a meeting. She spills the beans on Blood. She tells him that Blood killed his mother to cover up the fact that he killed his father. Arrow agrees to look into it.

Felicity illegally hacked Blood’s mobile phone. I guess that’s cool. The ends justify the means right? The team agrees to look into Blood.

Roy has super tough skin. He can punch through stuff without damaging himself. Super strength and super tough thanks to the injection from Blood when he was captured. He decides to fight crime with his new powers. Vigilante life chosen. At least he wants to help people.

Felicity hacked the justice department and the “bad news” is that she can’t hack the old file on Blood’s dad’s death. Another means justified I guess.

Laurel is going to help Arrow. She is still doping pain pills. She hasn’t learned from any consequences but the drug use is portrayed as wrong.

Oliver and Sarah are back on the island. Oliver jokes about always being drunk at parties. Never anything negative to say about drunkenness. “Not everyone is what they seem,” she opines. Once Oliver falls asleep she steals his radio apparently proving that.

Laurel helps Arrow break in to the records office to steal the sealed file. The illegal activity is once again justified by the ends. Oliver then holds off innocent police with force. They jump out of a window. A window?! Why the huge drama about breaking in if you could just go through a window? Mission Impossible bubble popped.

Oliver and team debrief. Dramatic language and posturing.

Roy has a target – the Slasher who attacks prostitutes. Cyn needs a dress. Thea offers the prefect dress. “Guy… or girl” won’t know what hit them. Casual homosexual reference. “Whatever you’re in to.”

Oliver confronts Blood about Laurel. Nothing revealed. Laurel is just acting weird.

Cyn pretends to be a prostitute to find the Slasher. Her first trick? Him, of course. In the whole city, the Slasher picks her up. Way too lucky.

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Blood is confronted by Slade. It’s confirmed that Blood is the murderer of his father. Blood has to kill Laurel or he will be killed.

Laurel’s house is tossed. She is arrested for illegal pain pills. When her father visits her in the interview room she tries to tell him about Sebastian Blood. Her father doesn’t believe her. Consequences finally show up for her drug use! Finally!

Sarah is back on the island. She is trying to contact Anthony, the guy who captured her the year prior. She is concerned about Anthony killing Shadow. He will have to live with her death for the rest of his life, he says. So it’s harder to be the killer than the killed? He needs her to save him. She can be his savior.

Roy is checking on the Slasher in the hospital. Cyn called Thea. She just wants to help him but Roy rejects her help. Always alone: the theme of this show.

Oliver confronts Laurel about how she needs help to kick the drug habit but she says she doesn’t need anyone’s help. Seriously, this whole show is about trying to do everything on your own. Blood and his goons knock out Oliver and take her. Could have ended the show by killing him. So close but Blood doesn’t know Oliver is the Arrow and for no reason decides that survivors are acceptable.

Blood says that masks historically give people authority like a god. Arrow and Blood fight. Blood should be no match but suddenly he knows Kung Fu. Blood gets the jump on Arrow but Laurel saves him by shooting him. She removes the mask and it’s not Blood.

The dirty cop that was killed has tons of evidence that wraps up a bunch of cases tightly. But since we know that Blood is the one who wears the mask it’s not convincing the viewer. The ADA asks her substance abuse problem and then fires her.

Oliver is mad because Laurel “fooled” him into believing Blood is the bad guy. He had a Blind Spot (the name of the episode) with her but no more.

Oliver finds out that Roy put someone in the hospital.

Sarah on the island calls Anthony and thanks him for saving her. She then calls him out for torturing people. He turns from his “save me” attitude to promising to hunt her down and killing her.

Slade kills a bunch of Blood’s men and promises to kill more of he fails again. He is super fast for an old, one eyed, and previously thought to be dead guy.

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Arrow confronts Roy. The serum twists men, he says. Arrow offers to teach Roy to control his ability and his mind. Roy accepts help! Hallelujah! Someone won’t do it alone!

What did we learn?

-The ends justify the means. Killing people, hacking or breaking into government computers or buildings, attacking innocents, whatever. This is a particularly dangerous philosophy because for Christians the whole point is that the ends do NOT justify the means. The means, our journey is everything.

-There seems to be some kind of moral superiority given to those who try to do things on their own. On the one hand we learn that Laurel was wrong to try to kick her drug habit on her own, but Arrow doing things on his own is seen as a plus. This message is confounded by the relative answers to whether or not people should work together to solve problems it’s never answered completely or concretely.

-The drug use does finally have consequences but they are minor so long as the plot moves forward. Laurel losses her job (for now) but has the charges dropped for no reason. The others do doubt her about Blood but only because she kills someone else wearing the mask. The drugs really are secondary. I would prefer a much stronger message about the dangers of drugs via stronger consequences.

-This show is a soap opera. Seriously. So melodramatic!

What do you think?

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Engaging Gotham (S1E16)

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As an exercise in discernment, continuing what we started in the Engaging Culture class in 2014, I decided to check out an episode of Gotham and see what its worldview is and what it espouses either on purpose or by accident. I’m going to write as the show happens:

It’s not a great surprise that the Penguin kills someone who heckled his mother. And since he is evil that seems appropriate. As a Christian I’m not against violence in a story. I just want to be careful about what the violence tells us and how it’s handled. This act of violence confirms Penguin’s character.

Aside: we meet Robin’s parents, the Graysons! Woot!

Fish Mooney offers to lead a rebellion of slaves against organ harvesters. Yeah that sounds crazy. She is evil so there is undoubtedly some plan to save herself rather than anyone else.

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The murdered snake handler’s son says, “sex is a healthy human activity” when asked about his mother’s numerous no-commitment sex partners. After all, he continues, without her sex life he wouldn’t be there. What does this tell us about sex? Gordon seems surprised by how blase the teenager is about sex but Gordon has no problem with sex outside of marriage himself. He does have a sort of rule where commitment is required for him. He slept and lived with Barbara. He’s almost gone over for sex with Lee after a date. He doesn’t sleep around. But the morality of sexual relationships on Gotham is definitely more open than a Biblical paradigm.

Mooney kills one of her fellow prisoners instead of giving him up. Knowing that the captors need them alive she uses the threat of violence against themselves to negotiate better living conditions. This confirms again her evil pragmatism. In that situation it’s hard not to see how this new negotiation may work. It was surprisingly selfless of the man to volunteer to die for everyone.

A psychic! Lila sent him a message from the “other side.” It’s a rhyme, of course. Gordon says, “if you were gonna send a message from beyond the grave wouldn’t priority one be a name?” Exactly. This episode is named after the Blind Fortune Teller so the idea that he may have a power is acceptable in this mythology. But the idea that psychics are real or that the dead communicate with the living is myth.

Is Bruce Wayne the rudest, most entitled kid ever? Yeah, very disrespectful to Alfred. But Batman is kinda a Jerk.

Barbara, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman (the two future bad girls are still kids) are eating and drinking and living it up. Barbara is trying to get Gordon back by wearing very short shorts.

Gordon has no issue with saying, “Oh my God” about how good the food is without concern for blasphemy. That used to matter but maybe not so much anymore. I think the Oscars beeped out one of these last week.

They find the murder weapon – a hatchet. It’s tied to a Satanist cult. So God and Satan exist in this world. The questions are where is God and where is/are the church/believers? He doesn’t have to be there, of course. But if he is then how he is depicted matters.

Gordon tells Lee that he wanted to have sex with her instead of pursuing the case that night. This is acceptable in the show but not in life.

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Gerome killed his own mother? His father is the fortune teller? Ouch. “Your mother was a cruel person…” Nope. “A cold hearted whore.” Red hair, crazy, joking about his parents. Joker? Yeah, this kid is crazy and evil. The logical consequences of the mother’s sin is not murder but the relationship issues with her son did start and end with her sin. In that way her sin did find her out. But did anyone learn the lesson of free sex equaling trouble? Nope. Gordon and Lee go home to sleep with each other.

PS: the psychic is found out to be a fraud. I foresaw that.

Barbara walked in while they were kissing and storms out. She is so clueless. She left him for a woman (!) and is a drug addict but she expected Jim would just jump back into her arms. Again a lack of learning from mistakes and clear expectations of consequences.

Butch shows up with Zzaz at Penguin’s club. He’s gonna help Penguin make money with the club.

Bruce finally gets his shot at speaking to the board of Wayne Enterprises. Surprise! He’s figured out their secrets.

The carnival kids are getting married. Mr. and Mrs. Grayson!

Gordon got laid. Everyone blushes. Fist bump. Nothing unethical about it according to the show.

Bruce would make sure that the company was run ethically. Good for him!

Fish has a deal. Thomas stays with the prisoners while she is escorted out. Double cross all the prisoners? Probably.

What did we learn? Here’s what I think we learn:

-There are clear good and bad guys based on actions. Bad guys act bad. Good guys do good or at least struggle with trying to do good.

-Origin stories of bad guys have messed up family relations at the root. Could be they are insane as well, but the way the snake handler ignored her son for her own sexual gratification played a big part in his act of murder.

-Open sexuality without committed marriage relationships insidiously depicted as not just acceptable but as a worthy goal. We could have learned a lesson from the snake handler but we didn’t. What we learned was that the uncommitted sex wasn’t the issue, it was who had the sex.

What do you think?

Engaging Blank Space

I admit it: I love Shake It Off by Taylor Swift. It’s catchy and fun. I like the message of shrugging off negative messages from others – especially in light of the video which seems to suggest that the negative messages are based on size, race, looks, sex, etc. I also like many of her other songs. She’s amazing at putting together catchy tunes.

Her current song, Blank Space, just dropped a couple days ago. It’s already got nearly 18 million views on YouTube as of today! I listened to it a few times and I’m so disappointed and bummed! It’s catchy, like what you’d expect, but the message is terrible! What’s up with this message?!

My first red flag was in the first verse when she said, “Love’s a game, want to play?” Maybe it’s just a lyric that rhymed not a message, I think. Then more of the same comes and builds on that thought showing that not taking love seriously (both sexual and relational) is the theme of the song. Here are a couple verses:

So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
‘Cause you know I love the players
And you love the game

‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless
We’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
But I’ve got a blank space baby
And I’ll write your name

A couple things really bug me about this. First, life isn’t about being looking forward to mistakes. That’s an insidious lie! Too often when people of all ages make mistakes, instead of trying to avoid the mistakes, it seems in vogue to take ownership and become proud of the mistakes. It’s juvenile but pervasive. It’s a “take me as I am” message because, after all, why should someone change? For someone else? “No way!” they cry.

But if life is a journey – and I think it is – and growth and maturity are learned along the way then the opposite of reckless should be true when it comes to life, love and sex. “Reckless” means thoughtless, rash, hasty, without thought of consequence, irresponsible. Reckless is not a virtue. The opposite would be responsible, with thought, considered. Those are virtues.

Is it any wonder that we devalue love and marriage so much in our culture that we go into it and out of it so quickly when we tie it to adjectives like “reckless” as if that were a positive? What if we didn’t look for a casual relationship that could last a month, as she says in her song, but instead looked for people who we could spend our lives with? Considered, thoughtful choices of who we want to hang with, who we think are good influences on us, who consider us when they take actions, who have similar life goals, who we want to have sex with. People who are not reckless with our hearts, in other words.

Love isn’t a game and sex isn’t something that we score. People aren’t points that we tally up in “blank spaces.”

Many of Taylor’s songs are about how she was mistreated by lovers and the honesty and hurt shine through and make us love her. That’s why it’s so out of character for her to glorify that same harmful attitude in this song.

Who Needs Christ During Christmas?

Recently American Atheists posted an advertisement in Times Square asking who needs Christ in Christmas and answering, “Nobody.” In a Fox News segment (read: debate where people yell at each other), the president of that organization, David Silverman, said:

Christmas is actually better without the Christ… we are speculating that for a large majority of Christians, especially the Christians that only go to church on Christmas and Easter because they have to… the religion is not the best part of Christmas. In fact it’s not even a good part of Christmas. All of the fun parts of Christmas… not only predate Christianity, but they are also completely devoid of religion.

I find a lot I can agreed with in what Mr. Silverman said. For instance, I agree that for many people, especially those who only go to church a couple times a year and who feel like they “have to” go to church at Christmas, the religious aspects of Christmas really aren’t that much fun. I believe they aren’t fun because I believe that a person who checks the box, so to speak, by attending on Christmas and Easter, and who doesn’t regularly congregate with other believers to grow in their faith may not actually be a Christian when defined as “Christ follower.” After all, in the most basic terms, Jesus enjoyed going to church every week and he and his apostles encouraged believers to do the same thing.

It then follows that if a Christmas celebrant isn’t actually a “Christian” then they probably don’t mind the unabashed commercialism and greed that, for so many in modern America, Christmas has come to represent. And if that’s the case, then Christmas is absolutely more fun without God, Christ and church. So, by his definitions, Mr. Silverman may be right.

After watching this video and thinking about what Christmas means I’m left with one defining question I think I, as someone who calls myself a “Christian,” should ask myself: Do I look forward to and enjoy the non-religious parts of Christmas more than the religious parts?

If so I may have a problem.

A passage to ponder: 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Exactly Like a Child

When I tell my daughter she’s done something wrong she will often apologize in a way where her body language and tone clearly demonstrates that while she may be saying words I want to hear she doesn’t actually believe them.

Same thing with my boys. When they fight I ask them to apologize to each other but their mumbled words of apology and stiff body language clearly unveil the fact that they do so only begrudgingly.

Half hearted. Forced. Only because I say so.

I’m like that with God at worship when He asks for all of me and I huddle in my seat with arms flacid at my sides, body stiff and sometimes not even singling.

Selah.

Never Already Happened

Listening to David Crowder Band’s Never Let Go can be an emotional experience. At my church, Springhouse Worship and Arts Center, I’ve seen an accompanying performance dance to the song that enhances the emotive power of the song that declares that God really won’t ever let us go. What I realized recently was that I’ve always thought of that phrase, and that truth, as a promise for the future and that it is really, when you get right down to it, only half the story.

My story starts like a lot of Gen-Xer stories: an underage mom gets knocked up, a hasty marriage ends when reality sets in, rinse and repeat. When all was said and done I ended up having several sets of parents and six brothers and sisters. Like so many of my lost generation, I lived through abuse, custody battles and most significantly a lack of security so profound that it would reduce my childhood years to dust and rubble. The one thing I knew when I cried myself to sleep too frequently was that I was hurting and it seemed that there was nothing that could be done about it.

So I retreated. I went inside and the world outside me passed like a TV show I couldn’t turn off but I did my best to tune out. Long before Adam Sandler’s movie, I remember dreaming that if I could have one super power it would be to fast forward my life. In so many ways I realize now that I did have that power… and I used it.

I don’t remember much detail of my life starting from the horrific custody fights of my preschool years until sixth grade. The reason I remember sixth grade is because that’s when I started waking up. Several things changed during that school year and right after.

First, my Mom who had been living for much of the previous years hundreds of miles away was now nearby and visited often. No more airplane trips to see her and my brother and sister from her second marriage. She was now married to a Christian man she had met at a Bible study (another reason to study!) and for the first time in a long time she seemed happy and shared that happiness with me.

Second, it was towards the end of that school year that my father, who I lived with, took me to a book store and offered to buy me any book I wanted. I don’t recall this being an abnormal occurance – not that I recall much – but I never took advantage of his offer on prior trips. That day I bought a book with a sword wielding female warrior on the front. It was Darkness and Light, a Dragonlance fantasy novel. It changed my life that summer when after devouring that novel I would go on to read at least a dozen more books before the start of seventh grade.

Then my father generously and lovingly allowed me to move in with my mom that summer when I asked for permission. I have no idea why he let me since legally he didn’t have to, but it was one of the landmark moments of my life. Not because my dad sucked or anything – he did the best he could being in the tough situation he found himself in – but because my mom made me go to church through high school.

In so many ways I’ve lived under the specter of my lost youth my whole life. It’s almost as if by fast forwarding it I’d somehow become doomed to relive it indefinitely – the past hurt simmering just under the surface negatively impacting relationships and decisions.

For a long time I blamed my mom. (Curiously, I never blamed my dad, who I think may also have had a fast forward power of a sort; he seems to me to have been a bystander in so many of my rare memories.) My mom, though, here was some I could blame. She made bad choice after bad choice. What I failed to see while blinded by my need for an outlet for my pain was that she was a 16 year old pregnant kid, scared to death, disowned by her family and looking for love in all the wrong places.

16 is four years older than my eldest daughter.

Empathy is the seed of love. For so long I lacked empathy for my mom. When I thought of my lost childhood I thought of my lost childhood. Never her lost decades, supposedly her best years. Never my father’s lost years. Certainly not my full-blood brother who seemed to have everything going for him. All I could think about was my hurt and my loneliness.

I don’t think I ever thought about it like this, but I realize now that I never considered that God was there either. Maybe it’s easier to remove God from the equation instead of trying to account for why he didn’t intervene.

After David Crowder came Michael Gungor’s Beautiful Things where he sings to God, “You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of the dust.” The dust.

And I realized He had.

As I worshiped, I was overwhelmed with the revelation that God was there all the time; He never let go of me. For the first time I realized that “never” applied to the past as well as the future. God never let me go and he made a beautiful thing out of the dust of my life (to reference Gungor, another amazing band).

He’s taken a child who missed full years of school (sitting in a desk in the hallway or in a principal’s office) and blessed him with enough intellectual gifts to help him overcome his lack of knowledge and a father who gave him a love of reading. Combined, those two things – untapped intellect and voracious reading – got him into college. This same kid with less than a 2.9 GPA in High School was the first in his family to get a degree.

He took the son, conceived in youthful fornication, and gave him to a virgin woman as a virgin man.

He took a child who was hurt so terribly by divorce and instability and made him into a husband to a single woman for 15 years and counting.

He took a lonely boy and gave him loving brothers and sisters, two loving sets of parents, and most importantly four loving children who have never known life that wasn’t filled with joy, friends and love.

The list could go on and on. But what is clear is that my life has been redeemed! Once I looked backward for the evidence of His intervention instead of looking forward for the hope of intervention it became clear. I can see the steps of my life being ordered in such a way as to overcome the poor decisions and terrible situations. I stopped wondering why I wasn’t saved from things and started seeing what I had been delivered to.

He never let me go. He makes beautiful things from the dust.

Thank you Jesus.

Does God Laugh at You?

Something I think is very revealing about individual believers is our choice of title for God. Some use Lord, Healer, Jehovah, and so on. One I have never felt comfortable with was Father.

When others would pray, “Father in Heaven,” or worse, “Abba Father” I would cringe. I just don’t get it. I’m certain it has to do with my family and my relationship with my earthly father, which isn’t bad, but definitely not one that would lend itself well to calling God the same name.

But when I became a father, especially when I had a son, things started to change for me. All the sudden I started recognizing connections between my actions as father and God as Father. I’d be holding my son as he cried after falling down, and I’d hug him and say, “Daddy’s got you” and I’d tear up and think to myself, “This is how God feels when I’m hurting.” When my sons – I have two now; there was a sale on KidBay – do well at something I feel immense pride in them. I realize that this is how God feels about our success. When I watch my sons play with each other my heart swells with love and I realize this is how God loves us – His “heart” swells with love!

And I realize, this is how God loves me.

We in the church talk a good game about God and love. But do we believe it?

Take for instance this quote I heard when I was listening to the radio yesterday:

When a man stands against God, God laughs!

I’m sure the preacher, Ron Moore of Journey Radio Ministry, meant well. He was talking about those who oppose God and how their power and ability to actually oppose God is laughable when comparing their power to God’s power. But he has it all wrong.

When a man stands against God, God weeps!

How do I know? I know the same way I know that if my son turned against me or started doing things I knew were bad for him I would weep for him. I certainly wouldn’t laugh:

“What son? You hate me and no longer want to have a relationship with me? Ha! I laugh at you!”

Church, we need to be mindful of when we put our sinful human characteristics on God and instead take His divine and perfect characteristics on ourselves. We laugh at our enemies. God loves them and tells us to love them.

God loves us. Our Father loves us.

I’ll keep trying until that name becomes comfortable.

Am I Saying What I Want or What I Should?

It’s been nearly a month since I posted a non-cartoon post. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to say anything but that that I wasn’t convinced that what I wanted to say was the right thing to say.

I’m convinced that God wants to use me to share with you. I’m convinced I have things I’m supposed to say.

I’m also convinced that I’ve done a poor job of utilizing what I believe as a filter for what I say.

I recognize that in order to fulfill my purpose I have to maintain and grow my audience. However, in the last six years of having this blog I’ve been much more likely to alienate the very people that I wanted to reach because I’ve selfishly said whatever I wanted to.

Jeremiah says this is stupid,

But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve. (17:10)

I deserve terrible judgment for my selfish motives and actions and for taking my gifts and calling for granted.

I’m sorry. I repent. I want to do better.

So the delay in blog posts really is about trying to find who I am in Christ so I can be who I’m supposed to be for you.

I’ll let you know as I figure that out.

Knowing Who You Are

(c) Deviant Artist nilemaster

When the preacher gets done and invites people up to the front for prayer it is nevera good thing for your daughter to look at you, smiling, and tell you that you should go get prayer.

That happened today. At Springhouse Worship & Arts Center, Barbie Loflin, one of the pastors, was preaching on being judgmental. The Holy Spirit My daughter convicted me – non-judgmentally, of course. Because I do judge. I do judge a lot and I know it.

What I didn’t know was why I judged, which is something that Barbie explained well. In her words:

I was asking God what I was going to teach on and I heard Him answer, “Who do you say I am?”

According to Barbie, we think judge because we think we are better than others but in reality we judge because we don’t know who Christ is and who we are in Christ.

If we judge we:

  • are insecure
  • are non-discerning
  • need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit
  • really are better than everyone else

I am all three of those. (That last one makes me feel a little better, even if possibly not true.) I do need a revelation of Christ and a revelation of who I am in Him. I need a dose of reality to strip away my perceived superiority.

It hit home when Barbie said that judging is actually a counterfeit of discernment. Being a know-it-all I want to be right, but when I judge I am actually being wrong, whether I’m accurate or not.

I want to be discerning. I want to see people as God’s sons and daughters. I need empathy. I need a soft heart.

And sometimes I just don’t have one anymore.

Keith Green expressed how I feel best:

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood

So I went up and prayed. Because my daughter called me on it and because I knew I needed to change. All I could think of, all I could pray was, “I repent and I want a soft heart.”

Know what I mean?

Does Anyone Thank God for You?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that at funerals the deceased was only good things like loving, funny, generous, caring, always been there for everyone, and so on. Prior to their death, however, I wonder how many times they were told these things. And because I’m narcisistic, I wonder how many people think these things of me. Now, I mean, before I die.

Then I come across passages like Philemon 1:4-7, where Paul is thanking God for three fellow Christians and I wonder if anyone thanks God for me. Have you ever wondered that yourself?

Does anyone thank God for you?

Here’s the deal: I think you gotta have a lot going for you to have someone thank God for you. First, you got to have a friend who is actually a good enough Christian to actually think about praying for someone other than themselves (and the new car they want, and so on.) Next, you got to live a life where your friend just can’t stop themselves – they just have to thank God for you.

Assuming you have such a friend, have you considered whether or not you live a life where people actually want to thank God for you? I am tonight and I’m pretty sure I don’t like the answer.

I know my wife sometimes thanks God for me. Without me, who would teach her longsuffering and patience? I also get to count my kids as a “yes” too since I’m their boss and I can totally boss them to thank God for me. Friends and people I know, though? I’m much less sure.

Here is what Paul said,

I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints. I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ. For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

So to be worthy of thanking God for, according to Paul, you need to answer yes to the following questions:

  • Am I known for my love and faith for Jesus and love for all the saints?
  • Does my love for everyone cause joy and encouragement among the people I hang with?
  • Do my actions refresh the hearts of the saints like a ice cold Coke on a summer day?

For me? Not exactly. To be way too transparent for comfort, I’m probably best known for:

  • My love of sarcasm and poking fun at people I know.
  • My laissez-faire attitude toward authority.
  • My salty personality that drives young women to weeping and old men to gnashing of teeth.

Yeah, I can totally suck sometimes much of the time. But the thing is I really, really want to be someone who people thank God for. But clearly, I just don’t want to work for it.

So we have two choices: 1) I can try harder to actually follow Christ (like the name Christian implies), or 2) I can talk all of you in to pretending that I’m like Philemon, Apphia and Archippus and to thank God for me even though I don’t deserve it.

History tells me that I’m extremely unlikely to go with option 1 so that leaves option 2. What do you say?

Photo by Deviant Artist hfootball.