Friday, July 20, 2018

Three Ways to Avoid Becoming a Public Spectacle

(Or how to become one if that's what you want.)

In my last post, Three Ways to Maneuver a Cultural Shift, I wrote about how a Christian can stand fast in the post-Christian world. Encouraging words for the believer, but I sensed there was more to say about enduring the daily information overload. About being exposed to every wave of public opinion. It's easy to get pulled in, but avoidance is vital.

The Sunday following that post we recited a verse in church, and a particular phrase stood out. I’d never considered exactly what was meant in this passage by "public spectacle."

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13b-15

Later, I looked up the term. Simply put, it can mean any form of entertainment. In Roman times, a public spectacle was comprised of games, festivals, competitions and chariot races, as well as plays. They were also celebrations of military victories, funerals, and exhibitory fights to the death. The Collosians would have thought of a public spectacle as a conquered ruler paraded through the region for all to see.

In the modern world, we might consider a public spectacle to be someone who did something inappropriate or embarrassing, either by accident or intentionally. They may appear ignorant or rebellious, or wildly entertaining. They catch our eye with something we don’t necessarily want to see, but we can’t help but stare. Some people might feel pity, outrage, or disgust. But others will praise the audacity of the act. With the proliferation of social media, anyone can become a public spectacle with little effort.

Sometimes a public spectacle parades such indecency that even the unredeemed take offense. A comedian made a public spectacle of herself on July fourth by dressing up in patriotic garb and spouting offensive jokes in her “God bless abortion” celebration. Perhaps a few other pro-choice militants thought it was funny, but anyone with a sense of compassion must have found the event shockingly awkward. From either side of the argument, abortion is not funny, and it shouldn’t be “on the dollar menu at McDonald's” as that foul comic has proclaimed.

Regarding the verse in Colossians, like a public spectacle in ancient times, the minions of Satan, the fallen angels, and the powers of sin and death were disarmed for all the spiritual realm to see. A show of victory, a funeral for demonic rule, a fight to the death. But wasn’t Jesus the one who died? Perhaps the cheering throng of evil powers thought so for a moment in time, but the resurrection shut their mouths.

The powers and authorities still attempt to mock God and the work of the cross. They rouse acts of ignorance and rebellion among humankind. But to the discerning spirit they're nothing more than shameful. And God will one day shut their mouths, too.

So, how do you avoid becoming a public spectacle in this day and age?

1)    Don’t let foolish talk come out of your mouth.

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4

Yes, even Christians have a problem here. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have needed this instruction.

2)    Redirect your attention.

Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.
Psalm 119:37

Sometimes we can’t help wanting all this life has to offer, even if it's not good for us. The world is seductive, but God is our strength. The psalmist asked God to guide his thoughts and desires. That should be our prayer.

3)    Be careful where your feet take you, where your friends lead you, and where your devotion keeps you.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
Psalm 1:1

This doesn’t mean isolate yourself from sinners, just don’t adopt their practices. If God is greater than all powers and authorities, then your influence on those around you should be greater than their influence on you.

But…if you want to make a public spectacle of yourself, and it seems some people have that ambition, then go ahead and talk like a fool. Lock your eyes on the empty allure of this world. And take your seat among those who mock the God of the Universe. Would He really be offended? We’ll find out soon enough.

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