I think about myself a lot. In fact, not a day goes by when I don’t think, “What could make me happier right now?” or “What do I want to do?” And if you were honest, you’d probably say the same thing about yourself. Am I right?
Self-obsession has always been a human problem, but recently I think we’ve taken it to new levels. Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up and this is what they’ll most likely tell you: a rock star, an actor, a fashion designer, or a superstar athlete. Hop in a time machine and ask the same question to a kid 25 years ago, and you’d get a very different answer with a very different mindset: a fireman, a mom, a police officer, or an army soldier. Yesteryear used to be about giving of yourself to make the world a better place. Now it’s about how to achieve the most success and get the most money to live in a big house with fancy cars and cool clothes while basking in the light of your own fame. I know I’m probably sounding a bit like a bitter old man here, longing for the past, but more and more I keep seeing what a “me-centered” society is doing to our thought process and belief system…and it isn’t good.
A few summers ago, I watched an interesting reality show on NBC called Last Comic Standing. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s cancelled now, but I enjoyed it when it ran.
Its format was pretty much like any other reality show in that a million people try out, and the group is eventually whittled down to the top twelve. In this case, they’re trying out to be a stand up comic. The top twelve are all thrown together in a house, they’re given specific comedy challenges, a few of them get promiscuous in the hot tub, America votes, and they get eliminated one-by-one until it’s the last comic standing. Clever, huh?
Well, the specific season I saw happened to include a top twelve participant that was actually a duo who called themselves “God’s Pottery.” Essentially, the two guys in the duo played out these characters (much like Sacha Baron Cohen played the character Borat) both in the house and on stage who were supposed to be examples of syrupy sweet Christian camp counselors.
Back in grade school, I would avoid confrontation like the plague. Wait, what am I saying? I still avoid confrontation like the plague. I hate it.
Recently, I’ve noticed that many people in my life are also non-confrontational like me. They recoil at the very thought of making a scene or disturbing the peace, because they’d rather stay quiet than ruffle any feathers.
And I am similar—I always prefer harmony over dissonance. We desperately don’t want to offend people because we really like being liked…and this is where the offensiveness of the gospel creates a major rub in the hearts of non-confrontational believers.
Do you have any idea what people think about you when you tell them you’re a Christian? If you are walking closely with God and have already established some sort of foundational relationship with a friend, they probably have a pretty accurate assumption of what the Bible calls a Christian because you have lived it out well in front of them. However, if you say “Christian” and they really don’t know you, their idea of what you are like is most likely a very inaccurate picture of the truth…and things can get awkward.
This makes me sad for a number of reasons:
Below is a link to an article I wrote for cru.org about the needs of a college freshman dude. Make good choices, boys!
As I’ve worked with college students for most of my adult ministry, I’ve often heard the question, What is God’s will for my life? Young people of an average university age are constantly trying to figure out what to major in, who to date, how to spend their time, and what job to shoot for after graduation.
Naturally, with huge life decisions comes speculation about what God wants for them, and how they should proceed. There’s a fairly abundant fear of the unknown amongst college students, but we all know that fear isn’t exclusive to them.
Back when I was a single dude living with a few other guys in an apartment, one of my roommates had a medium-sized, twenty-gallon fish tank with three or four fish in it, positioned in his room right next to his desk. And every now and then, I would go into his bedroom to sit in his desk chair and swivel it toward the fish tank to watch the little creatures about the size of a car key swim around their home. I did this a lot in order to help me relax a bit after a long day of work, because watching fish swim can be very therapeutic (that’s why you find fish tanks in doctor’s offices).
Anyway, one day I found myself sitting in my roommate’s chair, staring at one bright orange fish, a.k.a. Albert, as he swam from side-to-side in the tank, nibbling on little black specs of whatever gunk was in there near the tiny pebbles at the bottom that made up his home’s floor. As I watched him swim and nibble, swim and nibble, swim and nibble, a thought came to my brain that made me take pause.
I grew up as a military brat, meaning my dad was in the Air Force branch of the United States military, and we moved around quite a bit. As a kid, I lived in a lot of interesting places, and when I was in late elementary school, my dad got stationed at an airbase on the island of Guam. So for two years, me and my family lived in the tropics. In case you’ve never heard of it, Guam is this little island way out in the Pacific Ocean near the equator, about 4,000 miles west of Hawaii. It’s a place of tropical excitement and exhilarating adventure, but also an environment that is no stranger to these crazy storms called typhoons. Now, if you don’t know what a typhoon is, I describe it as a hurricane on crack.
And wouldn’t you know it, during mid January of our first year there, Typhoon Roy hit the island of Guam…and he hit it hard. All of our house windows were boarded up, trees were blown over and uprooted, coconuts flew through the air and smashed into car windshields, rain fell at monsoon levels, and electricity was inevitably lost from the island for days.
The story is told of three military recruiters being invited to a high school assembly for the purpose of communicating the benefits of military life after graduation. The assembly gathered in the gymnasium and all the students took their seats on the wooden bleachers. The principal of the school was emphatic that each of the recruiters only speak to the assembly for 20 minutes so they would all have equal time before the hour-long meeting was over, after which the students would be able to check out their booths if they wanted more specific information on how to join a certain branch.
The recruiter for the Army was up first and he spoke passionately about how great the Army was and why each and every student there should join. His zeal led him to talk for 25 minutes.
Right around the time I started taking some proactive steps toward growing in my faith, something struck me about my lifestyle that made me want to reassess how I spent some of my free time. Midway through the first semester of my junior year at college, I came to the realization that I had planted myself firmly in the middle of the Christian subculture that existed at my school. Quite literally, all of my close friends were Christians. And, deep down, I knew there was something wrong with that. I knew I needed more motivation to be connected with people who wouldn’t call themselves followers of Jesus Christ.
The truth was, however, that I was surrounded by non-believers all the time every day on campus. I ate meals on campus with them, I was in a study group or two with them, and I even sat next to them every day in classes. So why wouldn’t I call any of the people I interacted with outside my Christian world a true friend?