Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Flip Wilson Theology - What you see is what you get

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More Flip Wilson remembrances. I'll make it out of the early 1970s soon enough, so bear with me, you young pups! But pop culture really hasn't matured much in the past 30 years. We still live from catch phrase to catch phrase. Simplistic philosophy to simplistic philosophy. As a species, we ain't deep, my friends.

It wasn't just a catch phrase, it was his motto. Flip claimed he lived by this phrase. "What you see is what you get." He said he didn't ever want to be a phony. I always thought it was odd that a man who dressed in women's clothing could actually utter the words. After all, what we saw definately wasn't. . . well, you get the picture!

This time, maybe ol' Flip was right -- theologically speaking. After all, shouldn't we be the same on the outside as on the inside? Authenticity, they call it. Strangely enough, I stopped by to read Testosterhome today and Rachel had written a post called "What you see is what you get." In it, she talks about men being much more authentic than women; or as she put it, "simplistic." Men don't play the games of holding grudges and withholding forgiveness the way women do. At least that's her experience. Your milage may vary.

But is what others see from us what they get? Certainly that is my goal. However at the same time I don't really want to broadcast the sins of my heart to a watching world. It seems to work two ways.

One, I do not want to put on a false front. That's hypocrisy, plain and simple. Too many people walk into a church on Sunday pretending that all is right in their world. They try to hide the pain, doubt and fear behind a smiling-face mask. And when they put on the mask, they miss the opportunity to be comforted and encouraged by brothers and sisters in Christ. Besides that, they also miss a worship experience because of what is weighing down their hearts. The call for believers to bear one another's burdens is useless if a person will not share the burden. Christians always get criticized for being hypocrites -- saying they are good people when, in fact, they are a bunch of no good scum-suckers like everyone else. That's certainly not what we are called to be.

Two, I realize that I sin every stinking day. I'm not proud of that, but I will admit it. However, I'm not about to type out a confession of every hateful, lustful, selfish or proud thought I've had today. I'm certainly not going to detail the sins of omission -- not doing what I should do -- to a gathering of unbelievers, or even to just one. There is a limit to my authenticity. Those admissions are limited to certain people in my life and will not appear in the local newspaper or even this blog anytime soon.

I've blogged about the problem of authenticity for a pastor before (here). Some people want their pastor to be perfect, because how can one take life advice from someone who is just a common sinner. Other folks prefer their pastor to admit his or her sinfulness because a pastor who pretends to be perfect just isn't believable. So as a pastor, what am I supposed to do? Well, for me, what you see is what you get. I'm a man who chases after God but who never seems to catch Him. Or at least I can't seem to hold on to Him as long as I'd like before I have to resume the chase once again. I don't pretend to be anything more than that. But at the same time, I'm not someone who has given up the whole chase. Isn't that what we're all supposed to be?

Jesus told the Eleven that the world would recognize His followers because of their love for one another. We aren't to be recognized by our vestments or fine-tailored suits. We aren't to be recognized by our inspiring music or our charismatic speakers. We are to be recognized by the way we live out the love we have for one another and for the way we love the lost. If we truly love that way, we should live that way. That's the ultimate authenticity. That's when we live out the catch phrase, "What you see is what you get." And that's something Jesus is proud of.

For more Flip Wilson theology, try The devil made me do it! and Don't fight the feeling!

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