For example, heh-heh. The other day, I’m grouping. Just minding my own business. Just home grouping. Discussing one of those. One of Rob Bell’s DVDs. I forget which one. And one of the home fellowship people says something like, “Oh it’s like Christlikeness. It’s like what Paul said about the old man and the new man. And how we’re all gradually becoming like Christ.”
And I’m thinking, okay. Take it easy. It will be okay. But then one or two or three or four other people including a pastor say something like, “Yes. You’re right. It’s through the Holy Spirit we are becoming like Christ. Because that’s what we’re about here. That’s what we want to do here in this Christian business because after all we are little Christs. That’s what Christian means. Little Christ. This is what we’re about after all.”
And then I’m thinking okay. All right. I hear you God. Okay. And then I start talking about Christlikeness and how wanting to be like Christ is a pretty dangerous sort of a thing to be trying to do. A pretty reckless sort of a profession to be professing. And how seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit is great. A real bona fide super fine deal. But being like God. Trying to be like God. Is a big mistake. A really big no-no. If you get my drift.
So we go back and forth like this for awhile, the pastor fellow saying, “Okay. Okay. It’s alright. We’re really saying the same thing here. We’re saying the same thing. We’re just using different words is all.
“Look,” he says. “This. We can’t accomplish this on our own. This isn’t us who is capable of doing this. It’s the Holy Spirit. We’re all wanting the same thing. We all want to be like Christ, but the way this. The only way this is happening is through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
He says this a few times, as I say. And finally he says, “Okay. We’re really saying the same thing here. Just using different words.”
After I’ve said, well. “No. We aren’t saying the same thing. I don’t want to be like Christ. I don’t want to be like God. This is the last thing I want. Look. There’s this situation this wide,” I say, using my hands. Waving my hands around like I’m describing the Grand Canyon or something. “Between me and God there’s this canyon. A great big divide, see? There’s no way. I’m not ever getting there, see? I’m not ever crossing this divide between little sucky old sinful me and perfection Himself. God himself.”
Then somebody says how it’s a process and how we just keep getting better and better. In every way. And I say, “No. Maybe you do, Kimo Sabe. But I don’t. I’m just plain old Bill. I’m never changing from plain old Bill. Leastways, not while I’m still down here on this earth.
“Yes, God may choose to perfect me later. Much later, if you dig my jazz. My razzamataz. But in the here and now, that’s not happening.”
“Yes,” he says. “I believe we’re saying the same thing. But let’s talk some more about Mithras and the Romans and that kind of stuff. Let’s get back to the DVD, okay?”
And so like a good little Christian I let it ride. I let the pastor declare the reality he wants to declare or declaim or what ever. And I am generally supportive. Mutter generally the right noises at the right time to keep everything on track. Keep the group process on track, if you know what I mean.
Kind of like one of those treadmills. I don’t know. Have you ever been to a gym where all these people are lined up on these treadmills, walking briskly or trotting or running in the same direction and getting nowhere, watching about half a dozen or a dozen TVs suspended from the ceiling. News shows mostly. What’s going on in the wide world. Oh, maybe about thirty or forty treadmills. All the electric motors whirring. Everybody plugged into one of several channels listening to what they want to listen to. Taking their morning constitutional. Sweating like a bunch of energetic pigs. Disciplined energetic pigs. Focused. Very focused.
It feels something like that. Being herded in the same direction. Being driven down the same chutes into the same holding areas. Under the same fluorescent looking sun. Everybody listening to a channel of their choosing.
And then I email him later, saying basically. Hey. I think we do actually disagree. You are saying wanting to be like Christ is what we all want. I’m saying I don’t want to be like Christ. So we’re saying different things.
Then he emails back, “No. No. We’re really saying the same thing. It’s just a matter of semantics. Just a matter of saying the same thing with different words.”
And so finally a cork somewhere blows off, or a gun. A forty-five caliber semi-automatic pistol goes off somewhere in my mind. Somewhere fairly close. And I answer back that he’s full of hot tort tuna. He’s full of gratuitous grits. He’s full of scintillating Styrofoam.
I point out that the first time our species decided we wanted to be like God, bad things happened. We got degardened. Deparadised. We got work to do. We got pain and suffering. We got the boot. We got the entire kit and caboodle of this world. This world right here full of fuming volcanoes and ice ages and serpents and the whole nine yards.
When people try to be like God, bad things happen. People do some pretty unfortunate things. Start off in the wrong direction, you’re liable to drop off a cliff.
Pastor. Yo, pastor! Please stop telling me that we’re saying the same thing. For Pete’s sake. Please understand me this time. Please. You are saying you want to be like Jesus Christ, and I’m saying. Well. I don’t.
But then he writes back and says for the life of him he does not know what the heck I’m talking about. I mean, he’s very flummoxed and wondering what he could have possibly said. Because frankly he doesn’t remember saying anything like what I heard.
And he agrees that if he did say such a thing it wouldn’t have been scriptural. So he doesn’t have any idea at all what I want from him, but maybe if I want to follow this billabong further, we should do it face to face because as we all know billabongs are hard to follow in the bush at night and that’s the very situation we find ourselves in, in this complex darkened world of today.