Never confuse the temporary for the long-term.
We’ve all seen that guy with a terrible Looney Tunes tattoo. It probably didn’t take long for the excitement of a tattoo to turn to regret.
It’s easy to think now is the new forever. To watch House of Cards, buy Frank Underwood 2016 swag, and think that something beyond the finite has dawned. Friends discuss the sultry politics of the show. You feel as if binge-watching that moment is a pillar of your autobiography.
Times will change. Technology will override and force itself upon us. Kids will discuss how hip they are for having a vintage iphone. Today Memes pass around the facewalls proclaiming “Only nineties kids will get this!” A decade ago, only eighties kids got certain things. A decade from now, only noughties kids will get this.
Each of us is a frail shell encased around the immortal. Infinity is written on our hearts and we long so very much to pull the infinite out of the finite. We long to raise something up from the day to day and champion it as our savior, our humanity, our person.
We are dying frames searching for eternity in the present.
And you will not find it in these quaint identities.
Never confuse the temporary for the eternal. Never confuse the eternal for the temporary.
For if you do, you will find everything fading away. You will find everything meaningless.
Never confuse the two.
If a bird took a speck of dust from the moon to the earth, returning time and time again until the moon passed away, eternity still would not have begun. It is a long unfathomable time. We vastly underestimate the strength of the eternal. And overestimate the staying power of things ever so temporary.
I look back at old Facebook photos and I see phases. Short snippets of life where everything I did seems cringe worthy by today’s standards. Pogs for days. The Nintendo 64 was the pinnacle of technological innovation. Tiny Cell Phones seemed outlandish ideas from the future.
Pokémon was cool.
Ok, so I guess some stuff is timeless.
Tapping into the past through photographs brings so many questions to mind.
Why did I wear so many bracelets? Since when did I want a North Korean haircut? When was it cool to dress like a ninja? Repeatedly?
I look back and I see someone placing an entire identify into a fad. My old photos that once beamed with familiarity seem strange and foreign now. A foolish boy who thought that My Chemical Romance would flavor music for decades. Sometimes the fads lasted days. Sometimes years. In the end though, I found my identity unable to last.
It’s easy in the heat of the moment to identify with something. To grasp onto that moment and hold it so tight. White knuckling fashion, television, movies, political movements. If we are merely vapors in a vast chasm of time, how much more are the fads of today mere whisps of meaning in a daunting eternity?
There are so many times I look back and just think… “I used to be defined by that.”
Now I feel distant, even somewhat repulsed by what I was once a raving fan of.
This stands in stark contrast to a timeless book that has stood for millennia. The Bible stands ageless in a world where it is increasingly hard to find anything with the power to stay.
Despite this, we seem to want the temporary far more than the solid and stable life that God offers.
The modern church has a huge problem.
We have confused the temporary for the eternal. We have stood among political rallies, hobbies, American dreams, music, Video Games, hiking, sailboats, trips to the zoo, smartphones, LBTQ, Gender Identity. And while some of these things tug at our heartstrings, while some of these matters are of utmost personal importance even interacting with the eternal. When is the personal the eternal?
Since when was that our identity?
Since when did Jesus call us to be Paedobaptist first and Christian second?
Since when did Jesus call us to be all about our sexuality, and then tagged onto the end of that, “Oh but I’m a Christian too! Newsflash!”
Since when did Jesus call us to be all about the temporary?
“I’m a Republican Baptist Vegan Pro-Life Christian!”
In light of a million years, will that suffering look fashionable? Ten trillion moments from now amidst a new Earth and distant stars, will you wear that Bernie shirt? Will you look back and cringe? When the rocks have aged to dust, will you look back at that voting booth in November and think that vote put you on the wrong side of history?
Maybe it was putting Jesus fourth or fifth in a long line of masters that actually put you on the wrong side of history.
Jesus said to follow Him, He also said it’d cost everything. It would set mother against son. Brother against brother. Friend against friend. It costs something to follow Jesus. He does not compromise.
He does not say, “Follow me and I will make you feel secure as I help you find abundant life in IPA’s and pipes. You won’t know all the answers until my helper John Piper comes, but then theology will fit together ever so nicely.” (We get this from the Greek Word Piper-Kaleto)
Jesus, calls to us, having walked with reckless abandon, to follow Him with reckless abandon.
Our relationship with God is not and will never be our tertiary identity. It will always be primary. It doesn’t matter if you hate God or love the guy, He demands that our primary identity be a Christian. More than demand, we will one day be held to account for our identity.
It’s not that all those other things don’t matter. Some of them are the second most important aspects of life. Some relate to our living, our family, our spouse. Yet they are always second to that primary identity. Christian. Child of God. Image Bearer. A million different titles allude to the same profound truth. God should be the first.
These things do matter. It’s great to know when I hang out with a sub-culture or a group, that outlying factors such as our love of video games brings us together. Yet, do I really want to be know as the Gamer who is also a Christian? Or the Christian who happens to be a Gamer?
It is a slight difference. Almost tricking us into perceiving this as the mere splitting of hairs. Yet in this slight change of perspective the whole weight of who we are is carried. Much as a Rectangle is not a square but a square is a rectangle.
When we start to think with Christianity as this secondary state tagged onto a long list of preferences and hobbies we begin to ask ourselves “How does Christianity fit into my lifestyle?” instead of, “How does my lifestyle fit into Christianity?”
We make something eternal into something temporary.
We pick our job first, and our church second. Like putting a circle into a square hole, we try to fit Jesus into our lives instead of fitting our lives deeper and deeper into Jesus. One of them will have the rough corners and edges shaved off to conform to the other. Which is it for you?
Do you find yourself uneasy identifying with the church? Is the word Christianity make the stomach queasy? Distancing yourself from mainline groups and meetings in order to find an identity as “The Spiritual guy who everybody loves and loves everybody.”
I’d love to say that was the best way to live. But that isn’t how Jesus lived. He called sin out from the religious. He ate with the helpless. He died with the criminal. And He brought the thief to Paradise. He waded into controversy. He took every moment captive and asked if this would echo beyond the end of today.
If there is any time to be controversial, it’s today when just having beliefs and seeing things as black and white is enough to get you on CNN.
What you do today will put you on some side of history. For good or bad.
If you want to pick something that will stand the test of time, it’s probably not that flag or t-shirt or bumper sticker. It’s not a Facebook filter over a picture or a really great scene. It’s a person.
Put Jesus first. Tell people you love Him before you tell people who you think makes the best president. Be known as spiritual. Even *Gasp* Religious. Proclaim and claim that identity of Christian. You will find yourself on the right side of history, even if it looks like no one else is on that side. And it won’t usually look like it. Christianity is weird. It is different. It gives when stolen from. Loves when wounded. And cares when it’s not easy to care.
After Jesus is first. Buy that flag. Attend that rally. Write that book. Start that movement. But put Jesus as the first filter and not the last. Let Him flavor every meeting, interaction, theology, and life moment.
Cling proudly to our first name. Let people see you as different. As a God bearer. That’s the identity you want. That’s who you want to be known as on earth right now. You don’t want to be primarily anything else.
Because an identity will be labeled upon you until the planets fade to sand and the sun darkens. Millions of of years will pass and yet still have not touched the vast chasm of forever. We will bask in the warmth of the light of the son. We will rest and live in places beyond imagination and sensation. Yet the consequences of what you invest in today will be around far after tomorrow. Whether that investment is eternal or temporary lies with you.
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