I recently rented the movie, “Easy A”. This romantic comedy is about a smart and witty high school girl named Olive. When the movie starts out, Olive is hardly noticed by anyone in her school. Then, after a series of events, a Christian classmate named Marianne overhears a lie about Olive losing her virginity. In general, Marianne is portrayed as self-righteous, hypocritical, naïve, judgmental, and unkind. With the exception of trying to “convert” and moralize them, Marianne and the other “Christians” at her school generally separate themselves from the non-Christians there. Marianne spitefully spreads the untrue story about Olive all over the school. All of a sudden, Olive goes from being unnoticed to being in the spotlight at school. Rather than being disturbed by the rumor, the sarcastic and somewhat independent Olive is amused by her classmates’ response to the rumor, and she even seems to enjoy the attention. Having just read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlett Letter” in her English class, Olive rebelliously decides to play into the rumors. She starts to wear skimpy outfits to school and wears the letter A as a statement. After observing Olive’s new found fame, some Olive’s unpopular friends and acquaintances approach her to see if they could also be incorporated into the false rumors about her reputation so that they too could benefit from the attention. At first Olive refuses, but then she has compassion (albeit misguided compassion) on these boys who struggle to fit in at their high school. While the boys are commended by their classmates for their (fake) conquests, the attention Olive receives is increasingly negative and degrading. Appalled at Olive’s alleged behavior, Marianne and her “Christian” friends launch a campaign to get Olive expelled, despite the fact that one of them is having an affair with a teacher. The consequences of Olive’s decisions finally catch up to her and she eventually wants it all to stop—she wants everyone to know that the rumors are false—but at that point, she is in over her head in the elaborate lie she created. I won’t spoil the rest of the movie for you….
I enjoyed this movie. I found it to be very well written and acted. It was funny and thought-provoking. It would be easy to watch the movie and be frustrated by the fact that it perpetuates the image of Christians being hypocritical, judgmental, insincere, self-righteous, and naïve. Of course this does not reflect who Christ is or what a true follower of Christ should look like. But the truth of the matter is that we Christians have done much to earn this reputation, and much of our society sees Christians in this way. Like Marianne and her friends, too often we take it upon ourselves to “convert” unbelievers and to “save them” from their immorality, all the while hiding and disregarding our own glaring sins. We often fail to remove the plank in our eyes before removing the speck in theirs, and it is obvious to them and others around us--particularly when so many of them are more kind, more generous, and more compassionate than we are. Furthermore, we Christians can treat unbelievers like a project—as if our mission is to convert or save them from their sin rather than to genuinely love them with Christ’s love (because He genuinely loves them!). This involves serving them, being honest with them about who God is, and also being real about our own weaknesses so that God would be glorified as others see His great love and mercy to us! And anyway, we make for poor saviors. God is the one who changes hearts, saves us from sin, and transforms us. And Jesus is the only one who lived a perfect life--our lives are a far cry from this!
Instead of treating unbelievers like projects, what if we instead invested in our own relationship with God? What if we truly sought to know who He is and what His character is like by reading His Word? What if we learned to see God in increasing wonder, joy and awe? What if we spoke to Him in humble, honest prayer—acknowledging who He is, being real about who we are, asking Him to reveal Himself to us, and asking Him to transform us? What if we interacted with His Body, asking questions, being honest about ourselves, searching the Scriptures together, and submitting to one another? What if in all this, God revealed Himself to be our greatest treasure, deepest source of joy, and truest friend?
Wouldn’t it then be natural to share His love with others? When I have an interest or passion—it comes out in what I do, how I live, how I see things, and what I talk about! What if God was my passion? Wouldn’t it then become less about me and making myself look good (or less bad than I really am)? Wouldn't His loves become my loves? (and how He loves all people!)
In a sermon he preached this past Sunday, Pastor Mike Gunn drew a comparison between a salesman and an evangelist. http://www.gracepugetsound.com/sermons/Gunn1-9-11.mp3 We are not called to be salesmen! God does not need salesmen to pitch Him anyway! Salesmen give a pitch because it is their job to sell, not necessarily because they believe in the product. An evangelist is someone who is a believer and cannot help but share—it is something that authentically flows out of the evangelist because he or she has experienced something incredible first hand.
God does not want us to go out and tell the world about Him out of a painful, reluctant, duty. God wants us to share our treasure with others because we have EXPERIENCED and ENCOUNTERED THE ONE TRUE, AWESOME, ALMIGHTY, MERCIFUL, BEAUTIFUL GOD OF THE UNIVERSE! This is so loving of God—loving toward us and toward those with whom He has called us to share! May this always be our main focus and starting point for all ministry!