Summary: We are God’s chosen vessels, and as such, we need simply to live our day-to-day lives in such a way that we love and honor one another and God above all else.
You have all probably heard the current buzz phrase, “thinking outside the box.” If you use the phrase the same way I do, then it refers to something like abstract thinking – an imagining and inventing process that forces us to think beyond the mold in which we currently operate. Today, I want to modify that phrase a bit to talk about “living outside the box.” So you understand where I’m coming from, we’re going to show a video clip.
As they get this clip cued up, I need to give you some background information, which requires a bit of a confession on my part. I love the TV show, King of the Hill. In fact, I might even have to go so far as to say that I am addicted to this show. When possible, I arrange my schedule and activities so I can watch King of the Hill reruns. Now, I wasn’t allowed to watch King of the Hill when I was growing up, and my mother still sighs with disdain when she knows I am watching this show. There are certainly aspects of the show which fall far short of modeling ideal moral behavior; yet, I have found that almost every show sends a positive message in one way or another; not to mention the fact that the Hills are faithful members of Arlen Methodist Church.
One of my most favorite episodes finds Bobby, the only child of Hank and Peggy Hill, in a bit of trouble. Seeking to remedy the problem, Hank takes Bobby to the pastor of Arlen Methodist, who suggests that Bobby get involved in a local after-school youth group that meets at the community center. On the first day, Bobby shows up in a suit and tie, with his Bible tucked under his arm, only to discover that the Christian youth group consists of skaters and punk rockers; what might be considered a rather “unorthodox” Christian youth group. Through the course of the episode, we watch Bobby become immersed in this culture; he adopts the lingo, the dress, and the hobbies of his new friends. Furthermore, Bobby begins learning the Word and applying it in his life. Still, the skating and punk rock is too much for Hank, who forces Bobby to quit the group, much to Bobby’s disappointment. Now you, like I, will probably scratch your head in wonder, asking why Hank would remove Bobby from a Christian youth group in which he was so enthusiastically involved. The end of the show gives a glimpse into Hank’s rationale; let’s watch. (Show video clip.)
As you have heard, Hank leaves Bobby with a very simple but profound comment. “I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.” Hank is saying to Bobby, I don’t want the Lord to become just another memory; I don’t want your faith to end up in this box, collecting dust on the top shelf in the garage. Hank’s statement turned positive might have gone something like this, “Bobby, I want you always to live for the Lord.” Or, “Bobby, I want you to live an authentic life in which the Lord shines through in all that you do everyday.” So the logical question is, how do we live such lives? How do we keep our faith, and even the Lord, from ending up in our memory boxes?
Before I delve into that question, I want to give us a minute to reflect on how we might already be living our lives in ways that put the Lord in a box. Maybe our interaction with God is limited to church on Sundays. Maybe we try to hide our faith from our peers or co-workers. Maybe we only live our faith to the point that it is comfortable to us, never stretching ourselves or “stepping out in faith.” We each know those things we do or don’t do that tend to “put the Lord in a box,” and for each of us, those ways are probably different.
We do not have the benefit of seeing what would have happened if Bobby had stayed in the Christian skater group, or what happened as a result of him being pulled from the group. But we are led by Hank’s actions to believe that Bobby’s enthusiasm for the Lord was only superficial and temporary. We might think of it something like pouring lighter fluid on a fire. It causes the fire to burn higher, and brighter, and hotter, but only for a few moments, and then it dies away. Or maybe the parallel in our own lives comes with those “mountain-top experiences.” Like in my own life, I remember many times I have gone on retreats or similar experiences and felt a profound connection or reconnection with God and, as a result of that, I have enthusiastically vowed to read the Bible more, or pray more, or something like that. I would maintain that commitment for a while, but more times than not, I have not carried such commitments or re-commitments consistently through the years. So how do we live lives of sustained enthusiasm for the Lord? What do we do to change our lives, to “live outside the box?” Paul has offered us some clues in the passage we heard earlier from 2 Corinthians.