If you have been ruined by Twitter and Facebook, like me, you can only read about 3 paragraphs of something online before you inexplicably find yourself no longer reading and are now surfing ESPN.com or the aforementioned websites. So, while this post was originally one, it is now three. So let’s continue the conversation here.
Let’s paint a picture of our beliefs. In the tradition I was trained in, we were taught to view all of our beliefs like a house of cards. A house of cards is a flat value system (see last post). If I took one card out the entire house falls down. Since all of my beliefs hold equal weight, I have to fight for all of them equally. My views on the Resurrection were intimately related to my views on human nature and a certain way of reading Genesis. If I let one go it was just a matter of time before the “slipperly slope” took me all the way to the bottom.
But what if our belief system became a system of “picking our battles”? What if the picture we use for our beliefs actually makes a difference in how we treat other people and how we see ourselves in the world?
What if my beliefs were more like a game of tether-ball than a house of cards? What would happen if all of my beliefs about God, Jesus, the Church, and the Bible, were like that 1980s cemented paradise we call the Tether-Ball court? That is, a place where people could gather around a center pole and get healthier in themselves and closer to each other by batting a ball around a centered and anchored pole?* In this picture, if you knock around my ideas on Genesis, I don’t really mind. I see it is a positive thing. It gets us exercise. It brings us closer together as we play the game. And to be honest, I don’t really care since the center of the game, the pole, is still cemented 3 feet into the ground.
And what if that pole was Jesus? What if I were willing to have only one belief in the center of my identity and that one belief was not a belief at all but a Person?
What if I pushed all of my other beliefs to the outside of my identity and only let Jesus in? How would my relationships change, both with Christians, but most importantly, with people of other faiths and no faith at all? What if I only choose one battle to stand up for, and it is simply the battle to bring everyone to the pole?
Some might say: but doesn’t everyone have a different idea of Jesus? What about the dozens of ways to think about Jesus? Do we stand up for those? Perhaps. But I see my role as the owner of the tether-ball to simply bring everyone to the game.
And this is where the analogy breaks down. Because the pole is not static. He is dynamic. If I can just get people to start playing the game, I trust that the Spirit of God will do the rest. Perhaps to follow Jesus is not to fight for all of your beliefs but to lay them all down at his feet where, once they are no longer idols, they can become life-giving tools to help me grow closer to my brothers and sisters in Christ, closer to a hurting world, and closer to him. Perhaps learning to pick your battles is really just learning to value people in the same way Jesus did.
*I shamelessly and without apology have stolen the idea of a “tethering point” from my friend and former professor Pete Enns. But he was not creative enough to develop it in the way you see here. So, if you read this Pete, and I know you will (or will lie and say you did when I talk to you tomorrow), here’s your due credit.