Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oregon Trail, Modern Version

Pick your Occupation
Then: banker, doctor, merchant, pharmacist, blacksmith, carpenter, prospector, farmer, and teacher
Now: Troll, Defender, Conspiracy Theorist, Correcter, Geek, Nerd, Idiot

Buying Supplies
Then: Welcome to Fort Laramie! Would you like to purchase a wagon wheel?
Now: Welcome to Best Buy! Would you like to purchase a hard drive?

Obtaining supplies outside of the regular course of business
Then: trade supplies with the Indians
Now: trade deficit with the Chinese

Daily life
Then: Meager versus decent versus hearty rations
Now: Dialup versus DSL versus broadband internet connection

Then: Bobby has a broken leg. Sally died from influenza.
Now: McAfee has detected a virus on your system. Blue screen of death.

Then: You killed 1483 lbs. of food, but were only able to carry back 200.
Now: You shot 4 gigabytes of video footage, but your hard drive only has 3 gigabytes of free space remaining.

Making do
Then: Your wagon wheel has a crack; you can (1) trade 2 wagon tongues with the Indians for a new wheel or (2) wait and fix the wagon wheel yourself.
Now: Your hard drive has been corrupted; you can (1) bring it to Geek Squad or (2) borrow a friend's computer and spend 5 hours reading how to install a new drive and recover the old.

Feel free to add others in the comments.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Pop-In

A long time ago, in a Seinfeld episode far, far from recent memory, Jerry had a discourse on "the pop in," the description for an unplanned visit by a friend or family member. Jerry said he hated the pop in, but George and Elaine both loved it. In reality, the pop in was what made the show; if it weren't for Jerry's friends constantly being at his place, the show would have been limited to establishing the character's rapport through their shared meals at Mort's Diner, and it would have quickly devolved from a show about nothing to a show about waitress and food jokes.

I personally love the pop in. One of my favorite parts about living in the dorms in college for all four years was that people would constantly drop by and hang out. Nobody needed an excuse to come over, or had to call first before stopping in - they just walked through the doorway, plopped down on the couch, and sometimes said "What's happening?" As a result, our dorm had a very close community of which I have many fond memories.

I welcome that level of hospitality today - I want people to treat my house like theirs, and feel free to stop by for a visit no matter the hour or occasion, with no need to call first. I love it when people want to come over. Similarly, I love people who treat their houses the same way, who I know I could visit if I had a free afternoon or evening and they'd be happy I dropped by.

Unfortunately, that's not our culture, or at least it's not most people's culture. Why is that, I wonder? Some people just don't like visitors, feeling that their home is their fortress of solitude, the one place they're free from other people. Some people take pride in having the reputation of a completely organized person whose house is always spotless, so they only have visitors when they've had a chance to clean the house from top to bottom, which ends up being seldom if ever, and then only for "special" guests. Other people take pride in having a house that provides an appearance of wealth, and until they finish redoing that kitchen or can buy that new living room set, they don't want people to see their current standard of living. Still others take pride in being a doting host, who waits on their guest's every need, which can be a physically or emotionally draining task.

Christians are called to hospitality, and I think that means not only being open to visitors at any hour, but also encouraging them to come. There's no better way to show love to your brothers and sisters and to enjoy their fellowship than by bringing them into your house. The same goes for unbelievers - there are few better ways to show someone you care about them and are interested than to invite them to your place. Granted, there are limits - you shouldn't have to give up your every waking moment of privacy, and you shouldn't become a permanent fixture at the home of someone either, showing up right when the oven timer dings. Take the initiative today - invite people over to your house. Don't feel the need to have things be perfect, or to wait on their every wish, just take a step of faith and see how God can use it to bless you and draw you closer to your Christian siblings.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Giving up too easily

If you're a Bible-believing Christian, how should you perceive the unsaved, whom you believe are going to hell? I think some people might respond "with pity"; however, to pity them would be premature. You could pity their present state, of living in this world as an enemy of God, but you couldn't pity them for being on the road to hell, because they can always exit that road. God says that "today is the day of salvation," II Cor 6:2, and Jesus preached that even people who came to know Him at the 11th hour would receive full salvation, Matthew 20:1-16. To view them with pity would be resigning yourself to their "fate," believing them to be "destined" to hell.

Instead, I propose that Christians should view the unsaved as they would a friend who is going to make a bad decision. Now your perception of just how bad the decision could be will be impacted, of course, by how you view hell: if you think it's "heaven lite" or temporary or just a place of mild discomfort, then you'll view the gravity of their situation differently than if you believe that the Bible says hell is a place of eternal anguish, pitch black, consisting of physical and mental torture all due to the absence of God's presence.

In either case, though, Christians should be doing much more than they already are to persuade people to make the right decision, especially if they hold the latter view of hell. If there's any decision in life that a person you know could make that could make you cry, have you cried over the unsaved? If you'd stay up all night on the phone with a suicidal friend, would you make yourself 10 minutes late for dinner to stay late and talk with an unsaved coworker? Some Christians mention their faith to a co-worker, listen to the "Sorry, I'm not interested," and move on. Is that giving up too easily? Shouldn't Christians be doing more?

My initial reaction as I pondered these thoughts was to think that outright panic was justified; that would be the correlation to how I would act if I saw my brother about to jump off a bridge. Why shouldn't Christians be like that towards the unsaved? However, different reactions may be in order based on the imminence of the danger - my response to my brother standing on the ledge of a bridge would be different than my response to my brother taking up a lifestyle of chain-smoking. But is that adjustment for immediacy counteracted by the magnitude of the danger? My brother's plans to travel through western Pakistan in a red, white, and blue Uncle Same costume this summer would be as near as if he was contemplating going into business with a Nigerian prince, but one involves losing his money and the other losing his life - my attempts to persuade him that he's making a bad decision would certainly be greater in the case of the former.

Ultimately, you can debate the imminence and the extent of the danger that the unsaved face, but if you believe the Bible you can't dismiss it altogether. If you're not doing anything about the tens of thousands of unbelievers you know other than pitying them, you're giving up too easily.