E3 2021 has come and gone, leaving more questions than answers to many of the anticipated reveals that simply didn’t happen during the event. I really shouldn’t complain…. I mean, we DID get a Metroid game announcement (Metroid Dread), just not the Metroid Prime sequel (or Metroid Prime Trilogy remake) that we have been waiting for. We DID get some new Legend of Zelda news (a Game and Watch handheld), but this was not the retro release any of us were anticipating. Breath of the Wild 2 still seems to be VERY far away and I was kind of hoping I could get some Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask remake news to fill the time. Microsoft definitely dropped some pretty large bombshells, culminating with the console exclusivity announcement for Starfield, but my biggest Xbox question still remains unanswered. It has now been over THREE YEARS since the original reveal of Halo Infinite elicited our collective “ooohs and ahhhs”, and we STILL don’t know when the troubled development of Microsoft’s flagship franchise will finally end and we will actually, you know… PLAY it. Maybe this is just me, but when they stopped adding numbers to the titles and decided to simply name their next Halo game “Infinite”, I thought it might have something to do with the story… not the amount of time it would take for them to make it. Truth in advertising, I suppose.
Now that does not mean we did not get ANY news on Halo Infinite. Actually, we received some news that I am still not quite sure how to process it yet. The good news is that the multiplayer mode for Halo Infinite will be FREE for everyone, meaning those who are not interested in the campaign aspects of Halo or perhaps have never played a Halo title can still indulge in playing online and see what all the fuss is about. And honestly, this part of the news is pretty fantastic and makes a lot of sense. This will insure the WIDEST possible access point for potential players, and with more people playing this should mean there will be more matches to jump into, less waiting for enough players to launch a match, and hopefully it will mean that I’m not getting matched with the same 6 people over and over again because we are the only people still currently playing Halo 5 multiplayer on the planet. It can get a little lonely on these servers sometimes… maybe that video of Master Chief standing by himself with his helmet in his hand in the Halo Infinite reveal trailer was just him looking for someone else that is still playing his game.
So now to the bad news… or at least bad by the way I am interpreting the news. Obviously Microsoft is not simply GIVING this game away for free… like all the modern free-to-play multiplayer games such as Fortnite, Apex Legends, and most recently Call of Duty, Halo’s multiplayer will be monetized through the purchasing of “Battle Passes”. While the pricing model has not yet been revealed, these “seasons” of content will involve purchasing additional multiplayer content “a la carte”, with gamers receiving a consistent output of new content every few months that will add new cosmetic items, challenges, modes, and arenas… as long as we are ready to pay for them. Clearly this new model of multiplayer monetization has proven incredibly popular… Fortnite was at the vanguard of this purchasing model and has made BILLIONS of dollars, so I suppose that is a pretty compelling proof of concept. But for many of the long-time Halo players like myself who are NOT currently playing ANY of the “Battle Pass” multiplayer titles, this is a very unwelcome change. I have stayed nice and safe here in my quiet little gaming bubble, avoiding the “free-to-play” gaming fad that permeates my favorite hobby… but now it is coming for my Halo. I was just fine as long as we all minded our own business and they kept their peanut butter out of my chocolate, but now even my previously safe franchise has been infected with this madness.
Don’t get me wrong… I am SUPER excited that Halo is finding a way to remain relevant, because it is one of my favorite franchises and I hope to see it continue successfully for a very long time. And the truth is I can keep playing my classic Halo titles contained in the “Master Chief Collection” in all of their old-school glory as much as I want in my safe little gaming bubble… I don’t have to go outside and interact with any of this if I choose not to. But if I want to go to where Halo is going next and be part of the growth of the franchise, I am going to have to push myself into a new and uncomfortable place… because THAT is where the next battles in this franchise are going to be happening, whether I like it or not. All of my previous skills that I gained won’t simply translate into success in these new arenas either… I must choose to either remain where I am (both literally and figuratively), or I must choose to grow alongside this new challenge in battlefields that have a very different style of combat than the one I am accustomed to.
We find a very similar conundrum facing the Apostle Paul when he first set foot in Athens, a major religious and cultural hub that had reached a point of obsession with idol worship. To this point in Paul’s ministry he had demonstrated remarkable flexibility in reaching out to both those with a background in the Jewish faith as well as those who had either a limited or non-existent exposure to the Scriptures. And certainly nobody could argue with his track record of results, as he was starting up churches and adding souls to the Kingdom of God pretty much everywhere he went. But he had his work cut out for him on this particular step of his journey if he wanted to SUCCESSFULLY share his faith with this specific group of folks…
Acts 17:16-21 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
Paul certainly could have trotted out his tried and true formula for reaching others for Christ… but this was a new and unique crowd that required a dramatically different and much more personalized approach. Rather than reaching into his archives for an old message that had worked successfully in a previous setting and for an alternate audience, Paul let the Spirit of God lead him to meet these people with the message of Christ in a place of THEIR comfort and understanding. Rather than trying to force these potential converts to meet him at HIS place of comfort or in the manner HE found Christ, he chose to approach them with relevance and accessibility by using their very own “religious” language as the entry point for introducing them to the One true God.
Acts 17:22-23 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.
And in the following seven verses Paul essentially condenses the ENTIRE Old Testament and the work of Christ into one cohesive, accessible, simple to understand message covering everything from creation to salvation…
Acts 17:24-31 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Now did you catch that? Hold on, let’s back up the truck real quick, because this is kind of important. Look at verse 28 again…
Acts 17:28 as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’
So let me get this straight… Paul didn’t quote a a single verse from ANY of the rest of the Bible in this sermon, and the ONLY quote he DOES use is from one of THEIR poets??!!! Paul was given this remarkable platform to reach this city with the message of Christ… and He DIDN’T tell them to start at the book of Genesis and read the next 38 books in order so they could understand the redemptive work of Christ? He didn’t quote any Psalms or even some basic commandments… he didn’t start calling them idolatrous blasphemers and immediately condemn them for their pagan beliefs… as a matter of fact He didn’t even quote JESUS??? That sentence was as hard for me to write as it probably is for you to read. What is even happening here?
Paul knew about as much Scripture as any of us who have ever lived. His letters have more references to the Old Testament Scriptures than ANY of the four Gospels. But this was not the audience for Paul’s encyclopedic Biblical knowledge… this group of prospective converts lacked any common reference points for those verses to have any meaning to them. So Paul used what they knew and were familiar with to reach them with the truth of God and the mission of Christ, using their current (and flawed) form of worship as well as the words from one of their own poets to reach them. To be clear, Paul did not water down any part of the message through this… He clearly identified that there is ONE eternal God for all of creation (verse 24), it is OUR responsibility to seek a relationship with Him (verse 27), we must repent of our sins to have access to His grace (verse 30), and the physical act of Christ’s death and resurrection is our only means of salvation (verses 30-31).
Without compromising the message, Paul adjusted his METHOD of delivery to reach out to the people and meet them where THEY were at and through what THEY understood. Just as the Halo developers are dropping some of their old ways of doing things and taking a page out of Fortnite’s book to encourage others to give their next release a try, as believers we have a responsibility to find and meet those who are hungering for deeper truth where THEY are at and find relevant ways to speak to them in THEIR language, not the other way around. Christ Himself said that He came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10)… not build a church, put up a sign, and wait for them to show up.
Time for me to keep it real with MYSELF. While the change in Halo Infinite’s pricing structure is undesirable, the truth is that is NOT my biggest problem with the changes that are coming to Halo. The reality is that I am COMFORTABLE with playing Halo just the way it is. I have spent a lot of time playing it, I understand how it works, and I don’t want it to change because it works just fine for me. But Halo in its current state simply isn’t going to bring new players into the fold, and for Halo to grow it must speak the language of this new and growing generation of Fortnite/Apex/Free-to-Play gamers. As hard as it is for this old-school gamer to believe it, there is an entire generation of gamers who have never slipped on Master Chief’s iconic armor. He is nothing more to them than an archaic mascot who has never been in a game that they care about, which for me is almost sacrilegious to consider. But if all they ever saw him in was Halo 4 and 5… well, I guess I get it. They never saw him at his best.
I love the Lord, and He and I have been through a LOT. But, just as many gamers only know Master Chief through the less than stellar releases of Halo 4 and 5, many people’s limited knowledge of the Lord have come through some very flawed lenses, and as a result He is neither desirable nor accessible to them through the means that I came to know and serve Him. So, like Paul, it is up to me, you, and each of us who love Him to reach out to those who are seeking truth by serving an uncompromised message in a format they can easily receive and understand, right where they are currently at, in the language they speak, and using references that are relevant to them. There is, now and forever, only one way to the Father, and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But the way He calls us to Him is as unique as each of the souls that have chosen to follow Him… in Matthew 9 He simply walked up to Matthew and said “Follow Me”. In John 4 He used the water the Samaritan woman was seeking as a metaphor for the thirst in her soul that only He could quench. He opened the eyes of a man born blind so He could see Him and believe (John 9), and the same Jesus struck the apostle Paul blind so he could learn to truly see (Acts 9). And if we are willing to get out of our comfort zones and open ourselves up to the leading of His Spirit, He will show us where that “unnamed altar” is and give us the perfect words to say to make His free and infinite love the easiest choice for all who are searching for Him.
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