Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Insanity in Church

I had a conversation today with a co-worker about method acting, and in describing it I noticed I still referred to my character as myself. My actor professor taught us to refer to the role we had as if we were the role, so when I was relating to my co-worker the story of a class-work scene where I played a gay man who's lover was dying of AIDs and would soon commit physician assisted suicide, I referred to my role as me. My lover was dying of AIDs. I told him of my daughter who was born and then died in the span of a few hours (A role from a monologue I did, I don't have any children yet). It was a trick we were taught because when we refer to our roles as ourselves we can portray the role with an authenticity that we could not achieve as easily otherwise. Indeed, I was the best "gay" man in the class, portraying the role better than the two actual gay men in the class. (Professors words to the class, not my own assessment.)

My coworker commented on how close to insanity method acting seems to be, since we seem to make ourselves believe something that is not truth, that I have a lover who is dying. I told him that the line is that I am in control of what I am "believing" as true in that moment in order to evoke that emotion, and that an insane person is not able to control what it is they believe is true.

Which makes it really sad when those of us who CAN control what we believe is true choose to believe something that is patently false, using evidence of the truth to reinforce the lie. Can you imagine? What if Black Americans looked at the history of the U.S.A and from their reading deduced that Black Americans should be slaves? They forfeited their rights and began to act as slaves instead of free men and woman. Why? Because in the past they were slaves. We would shout and plead and reason with them that the evil of slavery was abolished, that their rights as free and equal people have been recognized as law now, they are no longer slaves! Imagine then that our hypothetical Black Americans rejected our arguments and insisted that they are slaves. It boggles the mind!

It happens every day.

Not Black Americans, mind, but believers. We have been telling ourselves that we are something we aren't and it is keeping us bound in chains that are already unlocked.

How many times have you heard the phrase "I'm just a sinner saved by grace"? It's a very humbling phrase, is it not? Don't get too uppity on your holiness, remember, you're just a sinner saved by Grace, God gets all the credit!

Did you know that our identity is an active trait? I, currently, am a writer. I would not describe this about myself in general since I in general am not someone who writes a great deal outside of work. I would like to be a writer, someone who writes creatively for pleasure or profit, but I am not. I am a husband, I am in a state of marriage to a beautiful woman of God, and I still pursue her. I buy her flowers when I can, I tease her with kisses, I serve her where and when I can. I am a worker, I do my duties and tasks, I take out the trash, I move furniture (see serving the wife above), etc. I work on a regular basis, I am a worker.

If I take class at college, I am a student. Not just when I am in class, but also out of it. For that semester I am a student, one who is taking a focused approach to learning. When the period ends of me being enrolled in the class, my status as student is over.

Let's take this further. When I was young I was a fanatical liar. I wasn't good at it, mind you, but I lied quite a lot and got in trouble on a regular basis. Nowadays I am pretty uptight about telling the truth regardless of the cost. Am I still a liar? No. That trait is no longer an active part of my life.

Now it's gonna get awkward for some people.

I met a man who had an affair while he was married. He became an adulterer. Without going into details, it suffices to saw that it hurt his family a great deal and the aftershocks are still felt. He ended the affair and has been faithful ever since. Is he still an adulterer? That infamous line "once a cheater always a cheater," how true is it?

Let's run this one down. Is committing adultery an active trait in his life right now? To the best of our knowledge, no. He has repented, and is faithful to his wife. So by the logic presented so far, he is not an adulterer. He is a man who, at one time, committed adultery (and has since changed).

But Eric, you say, I still sin, so am I not still a sinner?

Well, let's look at this.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

From this we can take away big facts: There was an old me, and there is a new me. In church you might hear about the "old man" and the "new man." This is what they are referring to. The problem is that we keep propping up the old man and saying that is who we are. It's not!  It's who we were. The old man "passed away." He died. He is dead. Oh, look, the new man has come! The old man didn't get back up. A new man was made in his place.

This is a really key bit here, and I wanna stay on it for a minute. The old man is dead.
'E's passed on! This old man is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker!
'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig!
'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!!

Maybe a visual will help in this. Here Brad Pitt demonstrates what Christ has done to our old man.

Yep. He dead. And to mark his death we get baptized, burying the old man and rising anew with Christ. The sinner is dead.

The saint has been created. We were sinners, saved by grace (and God still gets all the credit), and are now saints, who, on occasion, still sin. But our identity is no longer being a sinner. We are in a state of constant renewal, and this makes us saints.

Ok, Eric, we get it. But why bring it up? How does this change how we live? What is the takeaway?

Remember our self-enslaved Black Americans? They told themselves that they are still slaves, and so they act like it. When I act I create emotion in myself by telling myself a scenario as if it was true. If I tell myself that I am a sinner, guess what... I act like a sinner. But if I tell myself that I am a saint, I begin to act like a saint. If I tell myself that I am a Son of God, I begin to act like one.

Proverbs 30:21-22 tells us that the earth trembles and cannot bear up under a Slave when he becomes a King. The new creation is a royal ruler of the earth... but if we still live as the old creation, we are acting like slaves. The earth itself recognizes this false position, but we go about in our churches with our pithy words and humble attitudes spreading the lie that chains us.

Insane, isn't it?

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