One of the more talked about issues in Christendom is the “In the World, Not of the World” topic from Jesus’ prayer in John 17. In particular, the Georgia Baptist Convention twitter stream yesterday retweeted an update from a popular Christian author, Dr. Tony Evans that said:
A ship belongs in the water, but the water doesn’t belong in the ship. You are to be in the world, but the world should not be in you.
I don’t agree – at all.
Now, I’m not exactly sure how my brain made this next connection, but after thinking about it off and on for the past 24 hrs or so, I think it fits.
Skynet, as depicted in the Terminator mythos, is similar to how Christians see God in that it is a nearly all powerful, nearly omniscient, nearly omnipresent entity. SkyNet seeks to destroy humanity, God has both created and very nearly destroyed humanity on at least one occasion.
But that’s not the connection. The connection is the foot soldiers. Skynet has the Terminators, God has Christians – and there SHOULD be a degree of similarity here. You see, SkyNet sees humans as evil, and so it seeks to purge evil from the world. Similarly, God sees a fallen Creation, and works to purge the evil from the Created in order to bring the Created back to Him.
Here’s where it starts to get interesting, at least to me:
SkyNet’s early models were the 101s. These were the Terminators with no skin, just gleaming chrome. They could be spotted a mile away and (relatively) easily defeated or avoided. These are the talibaptists and other “true believers” such as Evans. Because they are so blatant and so forceful, many non-Christians simply tune them out. Thus, the power of God is actually LIMITED by their overt display of it.
NExt Skynet came up with a series – not sure of its model number – that had a very plastic skin. Harder to detect than the 101s, but because the skin was so fake they didn’t get very close after the first couple of times they were seen. These are the people who spend their entire life in the Christian subculture and never really reach outside of it. They can make a difference, but because they are so wrapped up in their own little world, largely they don’t.
Then Skynet came up with the 850 series – the Arnold series. Realistic human skin, stinky breath, very hard to pick off without dogs, and even then the dogs had to be fairly close. They became one of Skynet’s more effective soldiers, and the Christian version is also one of God’s more effective soldiers. These are the people who live a “quiet” faith. People who everyone knows is a Christian, but who don’t have to have a massive neon sign that could be seen from the International Space Station. Non-Christians turn to these types during times of difficulty, acknowledging that these people seem to ride through the storms easier and asking them how they do it – thus giving these Christians one of the best openings available.
Ignoring the liquid metal 1000 and X series, Skynet finally came up with the Infiltrator series – Sam Worthington’s character in Terminator Salvation, though I personally prefer the series as depicted in SM Stirling’s T2 book trilogy. This particular model blended in so very well that it was almost impossible to detect – and because of this, it was able to get so close to John Connor himself that it very nearly ended the war. This model adapted to its environment and struck as it saw an opening, but worked to play its cards so that no one knew it was a Terminator until it was too late. In terms of this series, it was the ultimate assassin. In Christendom, these are the people you find at bars on Friday night. These are the smokers, the drinkers, the guys who like Katy Perry not just because she actually has decent music, but also because she’s hot and they’re not afraid to admit it. Outwardly, in many ways you cannot tell them apart from the “world” at all. And yet because of this, they can interact with the world on a level the 101s could only dream of.
I say Christians would be most effective in either of these last two roles. By quietly living your faith and having interests outside of Christians and the Church, you can relate more to people who never even step foot on church property, much less in the door.
Getting back to Dr. Evan’s point: He’s flat out wrong. If you take an ocean voyage, you BETTER make sure you put water in that ship, or you’re in for a world of hurt. The difference is that the water in the ship is fundamentally different from the water the ship rides through – the water inside the ship is fresh water. Living water. The water on the outside will only make you thirsty and sick.
Christians by our very nature are different from the world we live in. But if we REALLY want to make a difference in that world, we’ve got to get out of the boat and mix with the salt water. We can provide a freshness that will at least make the salt water slightly better, and in the process we may actually remove some salt completely.
If we stay in the boat, we will get to the destination – and completely FAIL our one mission given by our Savior. If we seek to be Christ-like, we MUST follow his lead: We MUST get out of the boat and sacrifice everything we are in order to reach the one lost lamb.
We MUST take our water outside the ship, and we MUST bring the outside water into the ship.