This is continuing a line of thought from several previous post on systems. Read part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, and part seven here if you haven’t yet! These are more academic and less casual than my usual posts, and they are more for my own personal reflection as I sort through a lot of these things than they are for you (no offense). I hope you enjoy anyway though! 😉 -e
So it turns out that the actor inside the Barney the Dinosaur costume for ten years became a tantric masseuse.
From 1991-2001, David Joyner was inside the big purple dino costume, happily spreading his message of love to children around the world. Conditions inside the costume sometimes reached as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and Joyner said in a recent interview that the only thing that got him through those conditions with a smile on his face was his training in tantric love-giving. Through some odd smearing together of energy, love, light, and spirituality, he explains how his connection to the universe carried him through those crazy conditions and allowed him to continue to put smiles on the faces of thousands of kids.
I know this is a weird introduction to a systems post, but hear me out.
The Barney-the-Tantric-Masseuse story reminded me of something discussed in a theology class back at Moody. As a Christian, growing up within the confines of the Christian bubble in America, I think we can slip into this mindset that everyone who doesn’t know Jesus is wildly unhappy and actively searching for something to satiate their soul’s hunger. When I was younger, I imagined non-Christians crawling up to me like a starving animal and begging for an introduction to “whatever I had, I have to have it…”
Sadly, in all my years of being a proselytizing believer, very few people have come to me and asked me to tell them about Jesus because they simply were not happy. The truth is, many people in the world are quite happy and content without Him (Yes, I would acknowledge that there is a distinct difference between happiness and joy, but generally speaking, many people can become happy outside the sphere of Christ’s love).
And that’s what my professor at Moody told us: There are plenty of people out there who are happy without Christ. This kind of threw a wrench in my soteriology because I had assumed that everyone was looking for something to fill that massive void inside each of us which only eternity can fill (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Yet, as I go on with my life, I find many people who can authentically say that they are generally happy and content as they are. Without knowing God and having active communion with the Holy Spirit and the saints of the Lord.
For years, I was perplexed when I met a non-Christian who seemed to be getting along just fine as they were, not crawling around with a crazed look in their eye, thirsting for the Living Water.
How, then, can I ever tell them the good news of the gospel??
I would wonder this endlessly, sure that the only way to announce the news of the coming kingdom was when someone was unhappy and in a dark place.
There are a number of ways to go about this, but today I want to put this line of thought through my “systems filter.” What does the worldly system say about a wealthy American’s happiness? It’s worth noting that Jesus repeatedly instructed His followers to be on their guard against greed, lest it slip in without them noticing as they amassed their wealth.
That aside, there is something worth noting: Jesus’ sole mission is not to make people happy and content, in this life, anyway. The fact that someone is happy aside from Him does not mean that Christ is not on the throne and His kingdom is not still on its way. If anything, this simply reflects an ongoing blindness to the plight of the rest of the world on the part of the happy person.
Let’s put some hypothetical skin on this: Imagine a man named Chris. Chris is married and has kids and a good job and a good house and a good car and everything in his life is good. He would report that he is happy and content and needs to add nothing else to his life. How, then, does one point out Chris’ desperate need to know the man Jesus from Nazareth?
Chris is not the only person in the world, nor is he the sole aim of the kingdom of God. For Chris to have such a self-centered understanding of the world (as common as it is in America) reflects just how blind he is to the sinful and fallen condition of the rest of the world.
Yes, he is happy, but thousands of people will die in third world countries this year because they were starving.
Chris has a nice job, but children are being used as soldiers for cartels around the world.
Chris is in need of nothing, but 27 million humans are currently being trafficked as sex objects.
The point is, anyone who would deny that this world is in desperate need of a savior simply because they themselves are ‘happy’ are ignorant and self-centered. They are unaware of the system which allows them to continue going on as a wealthy average American, not recognizing that at any second the system could crumble and they could be scavenging for their next meal in the ashes of capitalism. Their happiness is merely predicated on their current conditions, and their hope is in material possessions and their history of self-sufficiency.
In other words, someone who is happy because they have discovered some route to their own happiness—i.e. David Joyner finding satisfaction in his tantric massages—is like saying a gear of a car is happy because it is well-oiled, but the rest of the car is totaled and is driving off a cliff.
Just because one’s crystals, meditation, energy, bank account, or whatever else they have found to bring them happiness, has satiated them for the time being does not mean they are untouched by sin and live in a world no longer affected by the fall of man. As a whole, our world is in desperate need of a savior and a revolution in the system, but the revolution cannot come from within this world. The happiness, peace and eudaimonia we are looking for cannot be found in this world. Those who claim to have found it (and may be genuinely happy) have merely pressed pause on their awareness of their own sin and brokenness, and that of the world.
Many people may turn a blind eye to the fallen state of the world because their own life is going well, but Jesus did not come so that they may be happy. He did not come to comfort the rich of the world, but to heal the entire mechanism. Returning to the car metaphor, He did not come to change a few faulty parts, but to overhaul the entire vehicle and make it brand new into a state that will never decay or breakdown. Ever.
Luke 6 has some scary words for those who live this way:
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
The thing about temporary satisfaction is just that: It is temporary. Every tantric sex session ends. As does every meditative moment. If fame is what you seek, remember that even if you attain a level of status and acclaim, you will die and the world will spin on and you will be forgotten.
There is one source of eternal happiness and satisfaction, and His name is Jesus. However the best part about Him is that He did not come just so that YOU and YOUR family may be happy. He did not come to make all Christians more comfortable at the expense of the suffering of non-believers.
He came to heal the entire system.
His message was not “Believe in me and you will be happy because you’re not right now;” it was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
In Ethan’s Systemic Paraphrase:
Change your ways and get on the right side because a systemic overhaul is coming. I don’t care if you’re happy or not right now, because there are millions of people who are not, and that needs to be fixed. There are millions of people presently suffering injustice and I am going to fix that. Whether you’re currently happy and comfortable or not right now, you should get on my team. I’m gonna make things right and you can either help me or continue profiting off of an unjust system so that you may be more comfortable.
Hope that makes sense.
To sum it up: Things will be better when Jesus returns, overhauls the system, and creates justice, peace and joy for all. So we pray with the Church universal: Maranatha, come hastily Lord Jesus.
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Written with such eloquence, clarity, and wisdom! Thank you for sharing, I’ve been pondering the difference of happy & joy lately, this blog was a gift!
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This perspective really affirms my reason of following Christ. Considering the system with its unfair truth is sometimes something people can feel helpless to, but to perceive Christ’s role in all of it changes that. Thank you for articulating this idea thoroughly Ethan.