Do you ever feel hopeless about the state of the world? How little regard for life, for anything sacred? Do you ever just want to escape?
My two-year-old, Ellie, enjoys Finding Nemo. I’m not sure, but it might be her current favorite movie. There’s one line that always brings a smile to my face. When Dory, the blue fish with no short-term memory, and Nemo’s dad, Marlin, are being chased by a shark through a sunken ship, they slip into a hatch, and the massive shark begins repeatedly banging his head on the sealed door. After a while, Dory calls out, “Who is it? Could you come back later? We’re trying to escape.”
Sometimes I want to tell the world to come back later. The depressing news stories, the evil running rampant. I just want to escape. So sometimes I watch Finding Nemo with Ellie. Nemo and his fish friends spend the better part of the film planning to escape from the dentist’s office tank. They decide to break the filter and make the tank so dirty the dentist will have to take them out and clean it, providing the opportunity for them to roll out the window.
There are so many lessons in that movie; I don’t have the brains or the time to find half of them. But the one that springs to mind tonight is how we all tend to want to escape the mucky tank. Neither fish nor people naturally enjoy being covered in muck. Luckily there’s Christ to save us from all that. The day we realize we can get out of the gutter is so exciting. It feels so good to get clean.
But wait a second. How important really is being clean? Do you have to be clean to be a Christian? Would people know how special Christianity was if they didn’t see how good and pure we were?
What did Jesus teach? Are we supposed to leave the low, the dirty, the scummy, the broken, the hurt, crushed, angry, hateful, ugly, diseased muck of the world?
Or is it actually necessary to live in the muck to appreciate God’s grace?
We just finished with Easter and we’re still dealing with Terri Schiavo and the tail end of Scott Peterson. I wonder how many Christian families talked of Easter in terms of what it meant to our world in the midst of all that. What is the message of Easter if not God’s victory over sin and death? How could we appreciate it if we didn’t realize the evil most of the world lives in?
I think the fact is, all of us are prone to forget just how wretched things are when we aren’t confronted by the stark horror of it with any regularity. I don’t like it, but I know it’s true. And how many of us are just paying a little lip service to “being relevant” and staying in our nice, clean houses?
Over the next few days, I thought I’d dig a little deeper into this concept of relevance to the world’s suffering with sin and death and how the message of hope interfaces with it. Paul spoke of relevance, of being all things to all men, and I think as American Christians, we could afford to come down a level, down from the mountaintops, to live in the world, and stop thinking we’re above the sinners we once were. How do we remember and retain our perspective on the state of evil in the world unless we’re living with it and dwelling in it? Never of it, of course, but in it.
So say all of you?