image courtesy of 123rf.com
You’re hanging around at Pizza Hut with your friends. After some discussion and a bit of debate (and a brief filibuster from Zac, who’s allergic to everything), you place your order.
The pizza comes and everyone digs in.
When the evening is finished and everyone goes home, there are one or two slices of pizza still on the tray. Every time you get together.
Why is this? It’s because pizza, when ordered as a group, is community property. No individual feels entitled enough to it to take the last slice. In fact, as soon as the pizza arrives, some people even start doing, in Kevin James’s words “the pizza math,” figuring out how many slices there are and dividing by the number of eaters, to arrive at the maximum number of available slices per eater.
Imagine now that this same group of friends, on the same evening, decides to not haggle over toppings. Instead, every person just orders a personal pan pizza.
The pizzas come to the table, and everyone digs in. When Jeff is done with his pizza, he reaches over to take some of Alan’s. Alan slaps his hand and says, “This is mine. You already ate yours.”
Forget about sharing. Forget about community property. It’s every man for himself. Not only will no pizza be left on the table, but each person will take home any pizza they did not eat. It belongs to them.
American evangelicals have a personal pan pizza kind of Jesus. He’s my personal Savior.
Hear that? He’s MINE! You may also have one, but you better have placed your own order for it (the sinner’s prayer, anybody?), because you can’t have mine. Even if I do give you some, I’m being generous. I’m not obligated to give you any. After all, Jesus is mine. He’s my personal Savior.
To evangelicals, then, evangelism is not sharing with people the God who is already theirs, but telling them about the God who is “mine” and telling them how they, too, can have their own personal pan pizza Jesus.
“If I was the only person on the face of the earth, Jesus would still have died for me.”
“When Jesus was on the cross, I was on his mind.”
Beautiful sentiments, but what if that’s not how God works? What if God actually belongs to everybody (and therefore nobody!), like the pizza shared by the entire community? What if Jeff has a right to Alan’s pizza? That is, what if God remains “community property” even when someone has what they think is their own personal Jesus?
That would mean that, as much as someone might think “He’s my God and he belongs to me and my group,” the truth would be that others get some too. Others who didn’t come to the table soon enough, others who don’t have the right information, or pedigree, or reputation. If God belongs to everybody, then he’s doing something worldwide, something the whole creation is going to get in on, something a lot of people are going to find outrageous. Something deeply, fantastically good.
This is not only the God I believe in, but the God I am positively counting on.
Question: How did this strike you? How do you think it is or isn’t fair? Let me know in the comments!
In my last post I said that in this one I’d deal with the question of how to learn to spot God in all the places where God is (which of course is everywhere). If I could boil it down to one simple thing, it would be that we need to move from religion to spirituality. I’m not talking about the fairly empty-headed spirituality we often see nowadays, which is basically that a person believes in something beyond him/herself and has squishy feelings about it. Such people’s spiritual reading often consists mostly of Khilal Gibran, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and Wayne Dyer. They will often even feel contemptuous towards traditional religions. That’s not what I mean when I say we need to move from religion to spirituality. Without entirely discounting what the men above have to say (on the contrary, I think Christians have a great deal more to learn from these men than most like to admit, but avoid them out of fear), I’m talking about something different.
I am not talking about junking Christianity and going rogue and doing your own thing. One sign that something is real is that it has a form, and so traditional religions are identified by their outward forms. Finding one’s place within a form (a “church”) and living in community with them, is important. What I’m talking about is a shift in mindset, that moves one’s basic dependence away from the form and into the realm of faith — that is the move from religion to spirituality. If you’re familiar with Christian scripture, you might consider this, in the Apostle Paul’s words, moving away from milk and onto solid food. Here are questions you can ask that will help you make the move from religion to spirituality.