Monday, October 02, 2006

the dress looks nice on you 1.0

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Some time ago, I wrote a bit about a view of cultural relevance in the Christian community that creates extra false layers of personality. I don’t know if I posted my thoughts, but I think I did, I’m just not willing to search for them to provide you with a link. So the idea was this. Christians try really hard to look and act like those they’d like to reach so as to have a more welcome voice in that community. This no doubt, is a well-meant, good idea realizing that not being “of the world” is a matter of the heart, and that the superficial things we usually refer to are only observable appearance differences that do not reflect a person at all.
When we concern ourselves with appearances and such, we actually marginalize and push aside folks to whom we are meant to minister. Nevertheless, in order to “be set apart”, and to be “in the world, but not of it,” and to “avoid the appearance of evil,” and to know who’s in and who’s out, we acquire a façade that covers who and how we really are, and gives us a counter-cultural look that we eventually realize creates a barrier between the harvesters and the harvest.
Paul certainly realized this and became all things to all men so that be any way possible he could win some. He set aside the superficial “set-us-apart” stuff so as not to set himself apart from those whom he wanted to identify with Christ. Some of this stuff would have been very confusing to the people outside of the groups to whom he was ministering. He mentions that he subjected himself to the law for those under the law.
We know that he circumcised Timothy to give him more credibility with the many Jewish people who were in the area, although he had preached of the spiritual insignificance (and spiritual dangers) of circumcision under the new covenant. He mentions that for those not under the law, he acted as if not under the law (though not free from God’s law, but under Christ’s law), this must have meant behavior that some would have frowned upon.
Ok, I got a bit carried away there. The point is that some will now realize the need to become all things to all men so that by all means possible, they might win some. The problem is that in desiring to become all things to all men, we put on a fake-looking, superficial, inauthentic cultural façade that covers our churchy façade that covers who we really are, and end up with two layers above our real selves. Somehow we don’t notice that the top acquired layer looks strikingly similar to the bottom layer that we’re hiding. So we come off as very “fake” and “put-on”. The bottom culturally relevant layer is real, why cover it and try to recreate it inauthentically? How did Paul avoid this?
I think this is also a matter of heart and humility. Paul realized that in himself, he was no different than those to whom he was sent. He avoided putting on differences that set him apart from them. We, however, somehow feel that we have to lower ourselves to “be like them.” Our “putting-on” is condescending to those to whom we “become all things.” If we didn’t feel that way, wouldn’t we just shed the layer that hides our real selves rather than put on an extra layer that resembles our real selves? I wonder if we are somehow dependent on the fact that it doesn’t come off as real, because in that way we are seen as sacrificing, and feel that inauthentic look somehow hides the fact that in ourselves we are no different than anyone around us.