I live a life surrounded by boxes – literally and metaphorically. Here in my home office I have a closet stacked with boxes. Each contains different items. Some have old bills and paperwork (my bank’s apparent aversion to paper has saved me the box of cancelled checks). Some have artifacts and trinkets and snippets from my past. Some have CDs, others old stereo wire and cables. Each box is segmented and the contents segregated.
Life is like that as well. In my mind, I have it all boxed up. One box contains my work life. Here in the front is my theological life – itself a huge box filled with many smaller boxes. Over there is a big box of memories. Way back in the dustiest corner sits another box… don’t open that one. I won’t even go near it. I can’t remember what’s in that box… it’s a bunch of stuff I either can’t understand or don’t want to.
The truth is, we westerners have that Greek-inspired tendency to think in boxes. To live in boxes. (I’m being deeply philosophical here, so bear with me.) We want to understand everything in life. We need to know every step. If we cannot logically deduce the outcome, we tend to shy away. We break life up into its proper segments and box it up. When we need to, we open the correct box and dig away at it’s contents, tending to ignore the other boxes stacked up in our lives. After all, unless you are a pastor, who would open their theology box at work? Or their dusty undealt-with box at church?
The problem is, we westerners are missing something very important. Life was never meant to be so segmented. Life should be life. Not my church life. Not my family life. Not my work life.
The more segregated and boxed up our lives are, the more rigid we become. The more isolated we become. The more box-centered we become. It gets tough trying to maintain all those boxes.
Theology is (in)famously boxed up. There is a Protestant box. There is a Catholic box. Inside these boxes are boxes inside boxes inside boxes… Look inside the Protestant box and you’ll see boxes labeled Baptist, Methodist, AOG, Charismatic, Fundamentalist, Independent… Each box is carefully controlled and maintained and protected, lest the contents of another get mixed in.
However… the older I get, the more uselessness and harm I see in these boxes. Maybe we should have a more eastern mindset. Now… hold on. I see many of you out there getting outraged at such an idea and scrounging through your theological boxes for a refutation. Just hear me out…
To the eastern mindset, community trumps personal triumph. The Bible is not about me. It speaks to me, yes. But, most importantly, it speaks to us. It is about God, it is not about us. The more I unpack my old boxes the more I see that I have been trying to contain is not a theology or a belief system or some sort of “ism”.
It is God Himself I have been trying to define.
To box up.
Let’s get down to it: life is logical. But the logic is one defined by God, not humans. We try to compartmentalize things so we can gain some level of control over our lives, but, really, what control do we ultimately have? Living out of these boxes impedes faith, because we believe in the contents of our boxes. We lean on the theological conventions we have learned.
If we want to see Truth, we have to step away from our boxes and see the Bible with fresh eyes. Peel back the preconceived notions and see what Jesus is really saying. It’s not about what sect of Christianity we cling to. It isn’t a matter of predestination pitted against freewill (indeed, when one sees the matter for what it is, we quickly see that both co-exist harmoniously, which is why I am a firm and staunch Calminian). It isn’t about KJV vs. NIV vs. ESV. It isn’t about isolation vs. community (both have their important roles in our spiritual lives).
It is about this: seek first the kingdom of God (His will and ways) and His righteousness, and all these things (the stuff we need on this earth) will be added to you [Matthew 6:33]. Seek His word with open eyes, not a clouded view. Consider how the mindset of the Jews wrote and read Scripture.
By unpacking our boxes and seeing how all of life is interconnected, we gain great insight into the richness and Truth of our lives. By studying God’s Word without bias (as much as possible), we see how gloriously radical – and radically freeing – following God really is! Nobody finds freedom trapped inside a box.
Following Jesus is an amazing trip, and radical to any human philosophy or way of life. If you don’t believe me, ask one of His apostles. Better yet, ask a Pharisee – if you can get one to lift his head out of the box long enough to see the Truth.