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16 November 2007

This Whole "Box" Analogy

You know, we all have a "box." It's our worldview. It's the frame of reference we use to perceive, categorize, and judge everything around us. We must have this kind of a box; we regard those without (or with different or smaller) boxes as "mentally challenged" or "handicapped" (or other better, more socially acceptable words and terms). Those who function within society, by the definition I use here, have one.

We often need to either enlarge our box, look out of it, or get out of it altogether. How do we recognize when it's appropriate to "think outside the box?" When do we, or when are we supposed to, do so? For Christ-followers, the first major way to recognize this is the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He uses His Word, our experiences and the lessons He's taught us, and even the results of our sins, to bring us to places of surrender, and often places to rethink what we believe; to alter our preconceived perceptions. Sometimes this results in our doing things that seem weird, extraordinary, or just plain dumb to those around us. Abraham's journey to a destination he didn't even know is the core example of this from Scripture.

God, through the Holy Spirit, can help us to see through lots of different kinds of wrong-headedness, and a major tenet of the New Testament is to regard others as better than ourselves (which, almost paradoxically, goes hand-in-hand with loving our neighbor as ourselves). This is one massive adjustment to our natural tendedncies.

We also need to recognize that other people (those outside the Church) live inside their own boxes, and that each box is different. One challenge of the church is to be able to relate to other people using terms and concepts they can understand. Based on Scripture, I do not believe that direct confrontation is always the answer (Paul conversing at Mars Hill rather than preaching at the people, Jesus not giving the Samaritan woman at the well the smack-down, etc.), though it may be called for sometimes (the way God led Jonah to preach to Nineveh).

One example of a people in a box (one I'm not suggesting is negative in any way, of course) would be the Geek Love Poem shirt. The difference there, though, is that those within those circles probably realize that they're an exclusive group. They can not only read the shirt, but they typically find humor in it because of a deeper meaning that they really "get."

Often we in the Church really understand what we mean, but our interaction (or lack of it) with those around us can be puzzling or confusing to them. The main reason I feel very comfortable saying everything I do at this site is because I know the readership is at least 90% "Church people." If my readership were different, I'd write much differently.

However, this only goes so far. Speaking of some modern-day church models and those like the aberrant fellowship referred to yesterday, the thought is to bring this type of open-box thinking into the Church instead of the reverse -- taking it out of the Church to others.

Am I making sense here? There are some things about which we must keep an open mind, and there are some things to which we must hold fast.

"Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NLT)

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