Advent Adventures: The Game

Sadness (Phyllis Smith), from the excellent Disney-Pixar film, Inside Out.

Sadness (Phyllis Smith), from the excellent Disney-Pixar film, Inside Out.

Yesterday, I talked through some ominous feelings I sometimes have about Advent, and concluded that the pre-Christmas/Second Coming season should be about anticipation filled with joy – not dread.

And then Sadness and I had to go and rain on the parade with this little bubble burster:

For believers, anyway. But what about our non-Christian neighbors?

That question definitely does trouble me during Advent. The foolish virgins who failed to bring some extra oil. The man and the woman who will be left behind when their compadres are taken.

It's funny how we never seem to criticize the wise virgins from this parable for refusing to share...

It’s funny how the wise virgins from this parable never get any grief for refusing to share…

What about them?

‘Them’ for me is a large category that includes all of my non-Christian family, friends and co-workers – not to mention the overwhelming majority of the planet’s population that doesn’t know Jesus – and when I think about this group and what seems to be in store for them, I sometimes have trouble breathing.

As my friend and pastor, Stephen Hambidge, said in his sermon last week, ‘Advent is about more than waiting. It’s about recognizing the source of our hope, and sharing it with others.’

Amen.

If only I were better at this.

Advent AdventuresI honestly do try to earnestly follow the famous (mis?)quote from St. Francis of Assissi, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words‘, but I don’t see a lot of growth in this garden.

I try harder and it seems to make things worse. I back off and try to be subtle and gentle, and wonder if they even notice.

Praying-Hands-over-BibleMostly, I pray. That’s one act of evangelism I know I can’t mess up. Or, more accurately, I can and regularly do mess it up, but God can and does redeem and work with what I offer.

I’m not very good at evangelism, and judging by the number of people in the world who continue to not follow Jesus, I’m not alone. The thought of bringing my cynical coworkers to Christ – let alone the militant forces in power in other parts of the world – feels impossible.

jesus_sacrifice-720x340Can it really be up to us?

Is it even possible that Jesus tore Himself out of the Trinity, came to earth as a human, lived and taught and preached and debated and provoked and antagonized and let Himself be caught, tried, tortured and murdered for us – and then left the completion of His work to the very flawed people who are so weak and flaky that they can’t even keep 10 simple rules that made all this necessary in the first place?

Not that Im saying the Stampeders are Jesus team and the Eskimos are Satans. Not that Im not saying that, either.

Not that I’m saying the Stampeders are Jesus’ team and the Eskimos are Satan’s. (Not that I’m not saying that, either.)

Imagine the battle for your non-Christian neighbor’s soul as the Grey Cup game. The score is tied, and there’s only a few seconds on the clock. Sin’s team throws a game-winning pass into the end zone, only to have it miraculously intercepted by Jesus. Jesus runs the full length of the field, with Sin hot on His heels, but a clear path to victory. Would He really sprint 100 yards, and then stop 10 yards short of the goal line, hand the ball to His three-year-old child, and say ‘It’s up to you now. Don’t let me down!’?

Is that really an accurate analogy?

Image-1Or is there room in our theology to hope we’re reading John 14:6 wrong?

As I said a couple years ago in Saving Grace (and Rob)

Christ is the only Way to the Father, but is Christianity the only way to Christ?

And as I said a couple years before that, in Saved by the Bell? …

The concept of a God of love and justice and compassion just doesn’t seem compatible with the notion of eternal damnation if you fail to believe all the right things during your painfully short life on earth when a great many things are outside your control.

What if your church didn’t have a very strong youth program, and you lost interest in your teen years and never went back? What if the missionary who was supposed to introduce you to God got a flat tire on the way to your house? Billions and billions and billions of people all over the world for the past two million years have failed to believe in (insert denomination here), so they’re all in hell?

No Flippin WayIs that really the best that God can do?

[In his book Love Wins, Rob] Bell asks the question, and regardless of what it says in Scripture, I can’t bring myself to say anything but, ‘No flippin’ way!’

You heard me. I said it, and I meant it. I just don’t always remember it. And sometimes, I do doubt it a little.

The EndBut if that’s the case, does that mean we’re ‘off the hook’ when it comes to bringing Christ to our neighbors? I don’t think so.

Perhaps, in some way that we can’t begin to imagine on this side of heaven, God does make it all work out in The End.

But people don’t just need Christ at The End, they need Him now.

Or, as St. Billy of Crystal put it in his letter to Harry and Sally …

whms_Thespeech‘And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.’

Jesus wants the rest of your friends’ and neighbors’ life to start as soon as possible, and if your friends and neighbors knew what that would look like, they would, too.

And maybe Jesus leaves it to us to bring people to Him because He knows that this frustrating, challenging work is also extremely rewarding and exhilarating. When we do it right, it brings out the best of us. Through this work, we live into the people we were created to be, and become more like our true, best selves.

Football-Toddler-228x300So maybe Jesus has just handed us the ball on the 10-yard line and maybe we are three-year-olds with only the vaguest concept of what we’re supposed to do with this ball. But maybe Jesus has cheated (which is His prerogative, since He invented the game and built the stadium), and erected some kind of a forcefield around us, so the opposing team can touch us, tackle us, hold us back and even push us back – but can’t quite knock us down. And there stands Jesus in the end zone, cheering us on with a ‘You can do it!’ grin on His face – knowing that the actual outcome isn’t in doubt, but that the experience of participating in His victory will bless us in ways that our three-year-old minds can’t even begin to comprehend.

Jesus could easily win this game on His own, but He invites us to participate anyway? What amazing generosity!

advent-wreathSo maybe as Advent reminds us about the importance of sharing the source of our hope, peace, joy and love with those around us, it’s as much an opportunity as an obligation.

Put me in, Coach. I’m ready to play. (Oh, wait. That’s baseball. Man, I stink at sports analogies.)

Peace be with you.

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About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Advent, Bible, Christianity, Crucifixion, Evangelism, Faith, Insight, New Testament, Relationship, Substitution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Advent Adventures: The Game

  1. Pingback: Advent Adventures: Literally? (Part 1) | Disciplehood

  2. Pingback: Advent Adventures: Literally? (Part 2) | Disciplehood

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