We step into a river, we believers, when we first decide to follow Jesus. The river is the great flow of believers from all nations and all times, a river that started thousands of years ago and that continues today, with a vast congregation of people called by God and living in his name.
We step into the river and there are so many who already are swimming, confident, powerful, assured of their journey, and it can be intimidating. So what we do is we copy what they’re doing. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is a good motto, and it works.
Along the way, though, sometimes we forget the point of diving into that river, following Jesus, is that we are following. We ourselves, and not our neighbors or friends or family. We must make our own choices on what to do and say and be, going beyond just doing what we see others doing to acting out our own convictions.
And I’ll tell you secret: it’s very hard to do this, because we can get used to doing things the way others are doing them. We get used to being copies of those we watch rather than being fully alive. We are used to being a cookie-cutter follower, matching the words and deeds of others, to fit in, to stay safe, to be accepted.
I think that’s what Monty was talking about this morning when he talked about the church and its actions in our culture. For whatever reason (and there are lots of reasons) we tend to do what everyone else is doing who says they are following Jesus. Not terrible, perhaps, but problematic, because we weren’t given life by God in order to just be like everyone else.
We are called to be alive in Christ, which I think means bringing everything in our own lives to God, and working with him to fully use our talents and our passions and our strengths, bringing to his light everything in our life that is broken and weak and wrong, becoming fully connected to him because nothing is hidden from him.
It’s terribly hard to do this, because all around us are people holding cookie cutters, and we like being the same. We like being safe and accepted and we like fitting in, and we end up not being ourselves, not being weird or passionate or giving, not being compassionate or thoughtful or enthusiastic, because it doesn’t fit in.
It’s too bad, really, that we do this. I think it’s a common temptation to give up on being ourselves, fully alive to God and fully committed to his work in our lives to affect the world, because it’s just easier.
And it’s too bad because we have the potential in us to affect our culture and our world. Perhaps we can’t do anything so dramatic as suddenly changing the conversation in the media or incorporating God’s values in the life of our community. But in whatever way we can, with whatever talents and passions we have, I think we can do tremendous things, changing our own lives and changing the culture around us.
It takes a willingness to be our own, true selves, and to stop being someone else’s cookie.