Thursday, September 20, 2007

More crocodiles please.

More crocodiles please.

What’s the best way to tell someone about God? I don’t know. There’s a billion schools of thought on that one, with books upon dusty row of books available. And I think a lot of those ideas are perfectly fine, but I recently developed my own method. It’s called “the Crocodile of Context.”

I came up with this theory while reading the book of Job. I was struck that in the very end, when God bum rushes the scene and lays down his word, he focuses on one fairly simple message, “I’m more powerful than a crocodile.”

Those aren’t his exact words granted, but here’s a little taste of what he tells Job in chapter 41:

5 Can you make a pet of him (the crocodile) like a bird
or put him on a leash for your girls?
6 Will traders barter for him?
Will they divide him up among the merchants?
7 Can you fill his hide with harpoons
or his head with fishing spears?
8 If you lay a hand on him,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
9 Any hope of subduing him is false;
the mere sight of him is overpowering.
10 No one is fierce enough to rouse him.
Who then is able to stand against me?

It seemed like such a seemingly random exchange. Here, with all the logic and theological arguments in the world at his disposal, God explained his being to Job using the leviathan (crocodile) as an example. At first I thought this was just another example of God doing something crazy. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that God was doing what advertisers like me do every day, he was putting himself into context for Job. LinkedIn, the business version of Myspace, sent me an email the other day and at the bottom it said, “LinkedIn has more members than the number of people that live in Sweden.”

That’s a powerful statement. Whoa, you think, all of Sweden! But then when you realize that there are only about 9.01 million people in Sweden it doesn’t feel that big. Myspace has more than 200 million members. If LinkedIn had said, “We have 9 million members” you would have assumed the site was a failure, but because of the context they used, they seemed massive.

So when God compares his strength and might to that of the crocodile he’s using an example Job could easily understand. Crocodiles are clearly strong and dangerous. I imagine that just like today, they were prone to killing folks in the old days. When God uses a crocodile as a measuring stick, he is instantly telling Job how strong he is.

I think that’s why so many ministers or people trying to share God miss the point. They don’t look for Crocodiles of Context. Instead of taking the time to understand our culture and build a case for Christ on the foundation of an idea that everyone can easily attach to, like a crocodile, they try to use an example that makes sense to them. They ask people to learn their language, their ideas, their theology in order to access their God.

In the book, Made to Stick, the authors call this problem “the curse of knowledge.” This is when someone can’t get passed the knowledge in their head to communicate with someone that does not possess the same knowledge. The study they cited was one in which one person that knew the name of a song tried to tap it out to someone else. The tapper, who had the song mentally running through their head, thought the person on the other side of the table would guess correctly 75% of the time. The reality was that they were only able to communicate the song through taps 3% of the time. They couldn’t understand why the person listening to their taps couldn’t figure out the song because they couldn’t see how deeply their behavior was influenced by knowing the name of the song.

I wonder if the same is true for people that love the Lord? Do we sometimes get lost in our knowledge and lose touch with the person on the other side of the table? I think so and I think it’s part of the reason there are so many poorly written Christian books out there. I once read one that told me I shouldn’t look at pornography because a lot of the money from that industry is funneled back to organized crime. That’s hilariously out of touch. As if in the throes of lust and temptation, a desire to not support the mob is going to be the thing that keeps my eyes poor.

Just adorable.

Where are the crocodiles in your day? How can you build context with the people that bump up against you? Those are the questions I think we should ask instead of asking someone to speak our language and or understand who God is according to our ideas.

1 comment:

Andrew from Australia said...

This is a good post with a good idea.
There could however be one problem.
The Leviathan referenced in Job is believed my many to be something like a Liopleuradon or a Kronosaurus, rather than a crocodile. These are both sea dwelling, dinosaur-like creatures.
This would actually make the context larger as they are each larger and more powerful than a crocodile.

To check this out you could read "The Answers Book" chapter 19.
I recomend the rest of the book to if you're interested.

Well, have a great day with lots of Side hugs, leg drops and plenty of Razzle Dazzle. :D