Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Being and Acting

In the movie The Accountant, Ray McKinnon plays an old school accountant on a mission to save the southern way of life one family farm at a time and by any means necessary. As he explains his philosophy to the two brothers whose farm he is trying to save, he reveals that the problem is much deeper than sloppy bookkeeping and questionable farming practices. And it’s through this conspiratorial explanation that we get a nice chunk of wisdom. The real danger for these two brothers is not losing the family farm. The real threat is that one day they will stop being country and start acting country.

Being country is wearing the necessary clothes for the job you have to do.

Acting country is wearing a sleeveless flannel and beat up jeans because that’s what Larry the Cable Guy wears.

Being country is driving a car that you can afford.

Acting country is getting way over your head into debt just so you can buy a brand new truck with a 6 inch lift, horns on the hood and a sticker on the back that says “Ain’t Skeered” because anything less wouldn’t be country enough.

Being country is teaching your little girl what it means to love a husband and help support a family.

Acting country is dragging her all over the state, dressing her up like Dee Snider[1] and hoping she gets first place overall in some shady “beauty pageant” because that’s what Southern Belles do.

Of course the struggle between being and acting is not limited to country living.

In high school I had a good friend named Joe. Joe wore different clothes and talked different. Joe just looked different from everyone else in my suburban Atlanta community because Joe was from New Jersey. He would even get mistaken for Joey Buttafuoco in restaurants. People who are born and raised in the south don’t get mistaken for Joey Buttafuco. But Joe was just being New Jersey.

On the other hand, there’s Snooki. She’s acting New Jersey. And by acting, I mean that in the truest sense of the term: scripts, staging, camera angles and all the rest of the stuff that goes along with reality TV shows[2].

Even sports are not immune to this phenomenon. Sign up for a 10k and take some time before the race starts to look over the runners. The guy you see with the brand new shoes, swanky shorts and weird leg sleeves will not win the race. Count on it.

When you find the guy that looks like a homeless dude in his underwear and somebody else’s shoes, you’ve found your winner.

The same is true of any other sport. Think back to your junior high days and the guy with the $300 pair of Jordans and $100 Nike outfit[3] that couldn’t hit a layup if you built a staircase under the rim for him.

Acting is dressing the part. Being is winning.

Acting and being is a problem in the church too.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus commended a church for its good works. He gave the church at Ephesus a thumbs up for patiently enduring through trials. He was pleased with the discernment they displayed as they encountered peddlers of a false gospel.

And then, in Revelation 2:4, he drops the hammer.

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

This church was doing all of the right things and they seemed to be avoiding the things that were not pleasing to God or good for his church. And yet they forgot the most important part. Perhaps they were doing all of the right things out of habit or rote tradition. All we know for sure is that they weren’t doing it out of a love for God and others.

They were acting instead of being.

The remedy that Jesus offers is not this: “Come on church. Get over that theological stuff. Theology is for seminaries. This is the real world. All we need is love.”

Instead, he tells them to repent and to make loving God and loving others the springboard from which they do their good deeds. He tells them to be what they already are.

I really enjoy talking with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s a great way to put what you study into practice and hopefully see people who are blinded by a false religion come to see Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man. But sometimes I walk away from the conversation convicted.

Was I trying to win a debate?

Was my goal to prove that I was right and that they are wrong?

Or, was my motivation the fact that I love God so much that I don’t want to see his gospel distorted and that I love those people so much that I don’t want to see them make the biggest mistake of their lives and buy into a false gospel?

Trying to keep good morals, stay away from bad stuff, and convince others to do the same because that’s what Christians do is acting.

Loving God and neighbor because of God’s demonstration of his love for me on the cross is being.

Are you acting Christian or are you being Christian?

[1] See also Christina Aguilera

[2] The second you put a camera in someone’s face they stop being themselves. This is exponentially true when you follow them around with that camera for 6 months out of the year. With the exception of sports and maybe Cops, there is no such thing as reality TV.

[3] Boys over the age of 3 don’t wear outfits.

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