If you ever wanted to begin the process of determining how your home interior standards can co-exist with someone else’s, I would strongly suggest sharing an island in Animal Crossing. If you are about to start dating someone or perhaps considering moving your relationship to the next level I personally believe this should be a REQUIRED part of pre-marital curriculum. Let’s just say we have found that there is a large discrepancy in terms of what my wife’s concept of “exquisite decor” is and my own. For example, my wife has multiple bedrooms in her home that are clearly themed, exquisitely decorated, and functional. Mine… well… let’s just say that my concept of “feng shui” has a lot less to do with serene spacial concepts and more to do with random wrestling figures, excessive toilets, and entire walls and floors decorated with the cat from the “salad cat” meme. I find it soothing in my own way.
This worked out fine until I started expanding my concept of stylish architecture into the island we both share. I personally feel that my sense of island style brings a certain under-stated charm to our surroundings. She… well… let’s just say that she does not share my artistic vision nor my passion for salad cats. At ALL. And yet, we must find a way to co-exist on this island that we are both sharing in spite of the fact that clearly one of us is lacking in taste. I won’t say who… I think these pictures speak for themselves just fine and I trust you to draw your own conclusions.
Far too often we find ourselves in a similar predicament, and now more than ever. We all exist in this same space and often have very distinctly different concepts of how to occupy it. Even our best, most democratic responses to deal with the struggle of balancing divergent opinions are designed to insure that only the most vocal and militant majority will see their viewpoint come to pass. And as a society we find ways to divide over and over and OVER again as we disagree on an opinion, and then in what manner to react to that opinion, and then we regress even further into racial, gender, and age-based groups until we find ourselves into the smallest possible pocket of similar viewpoints. And as one global family destined to share this island Earth, we have to figure out a resolution. One that is found, as always, in the Word of God. But before we get there, we have an important stop to make in an entirely different kingdom. The Mushroom Kingdom, to be precise.
When we think about the old-school, 8-bit NES adventures of Mario in the original Super Mario Brothers most people would consider this to be the definition of a linear experience. Strictly moving to the right, level after level, with only one final outcome. But layered within this path to the final flag pole are multiple deviations… power-ups that are purely optional but create serious advantages, warp pipes to take shortcuts past lengthy sections of the game, and even multiple ways to approach the final boss fight with Bowser. I used to think there was only ONE way to get there… MY WAY. I was a JUMPER. Up and over Bowser… that was the RIGHT way to do it. My father was a jumper, his father was a jumper, and I was proud to be a jumper too, I tell you what. (Okay, I am slightly uncertain if my father or grandfather ever played this game. But it just SEEMS like they would be jumpers.
But then I observed my sister take a dramatically different approach to the boss fight I felt only had ONE solution. I was a jumper every time, always flying over Bowser’s head to avoid any contact. But she would just look at it, time it, and then RECKLESSLY dart under his feet. It drove me nuts because it was not the method I was comfortable with, and so by virtue of the fact that it was not my way, it felt WRONG. We both got to the same place, but her way could not have been more opposite of mine. I went up where she stayed straight. I was slow and cautious, and she just darted right in there. How can both methods lead to a successful conclusion? Ok… NOW I think we are ready to explore this deeper.
We are going to start in the book of Luke, where we find Jesus addressing this very problem with His followers. His twelve disciples had observed an unconnected believer acting out their faith and discouraged it because they weren’t part of their “group”…
Luke 9:49-50 Now John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.”
Now, you MIGHT say. “I remember you writing an article similar to this before in a link found here…”
and I would reply by saying, “Thank you for that cheap plug, the check is in the mail”. But I would ALSO reply by saying we are going to dive a little deeper by seeing what Jesus had to say immediately AFTER this statement. It is true that Christ was eager to remove division between His followers. But the CONTEXT of what truly divides us is explored in the following five verses…
Luke 9:51-55 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
Jesus was faced once again with a divergence between His mission on earth and how His followers were interpreting it. The moment we make this about OUR needs, desires, or priorities we miss the point COMPLETELY. From day one Jesus made it clear that our mission as His followers was to “seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10). But somewhere along the way from the very first earthly followers of Christ to our modern age we continue to struggle with the priority of what the church and it’s disciples are truly for.
Every day, from the news to our social media to everyday conversations, all we hear are an incredible diversity of opinions and how we are weaponizing those differences against each other. By failing to see the beauty of a body made up of many diverse parts (1 Corinthians 12), we create a community of souls full of redundant body parts that refuse to intersect into the organism we were designed to be. Much like my sister and I when we were kids, we insist that there is only ONE way to take down Bowser when in reality there were several methods available within even the most linear of gaming experiences. But similar to the Animal Crossing island that my wife and I both inhabit, there MUST be not only a mutual agreement of co-habitation to survive, but an appreciation of the beauty EACH of us provide to truly enjoy the experience.
In a world that demands “tolerance” even as it persecutes unpopular opinions, we must aspire to something GREATER. As followers of Christ, we have chosen the path of LOVING our enemies (Matthew 5:44) as well as living peaceably EVEN with those who disagree with us or would do us harm (Romans 12:18). This does not mean we abandon or water down our beliefs… it means we actually LIVE them. As the world around us bickers and fights to determine who is right, who is wrong, who was responsible, and if Greedo or Han shot first, we are called to be the PEACEMAKERS (Matthew 5:9).
My wife and I have found our island equilibrium… she understands I am a moron who will continue to decorate the island with ridiculous pictures and fill my home with as many toilets as I can find. And I will respect her need to actually make the island inhabitable by limiting my antics to specific areas (meaning NOT in her garden). If we all realize that it is the nature of Christ to protect the weak, save those who cannot defend themselves, and make peace even with those who disagree with our beliefs we MAY actually find the common ground that will enable us to reach their hearts with the Gospel. He came to SEEK and to SAVE those who are lost… do our actions, conversations, and social media posts say the same thing?
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