Remember the little things…but don’t be annoying
Rachel and I are reading and discussing a book with some folks from Christ Journey right now. It’s called New Day Revolution and its focus is making people aware of small things they can do to help the environment, improve society, etc. For instance it gives statistics on how much water you save by spending 1 minute less in the shower each day (over a thousand gallons a year…if you shower everyday). It also gives suggestions on things like how to use your time online to benefit others – causes, charities, etc.
Usually as I sit and stare at my paper cup from Starbucks, I wonder why I don’t get a “for here” cup. They have ceramic mugs for the same price which don’t end up in a landfill…well, not as quickly anyway. I almost always finish my latte here, so why not?
The reason, in a word…I’m absentminded. I order my coffee the same way I do so many other things – on autopilot. I step up to the counter, make small talk with the barista and say something like, “You got it” (yes, that’s because they know what I’m ordering and just check with me to be polite.)
But the past couple times I’ve remembered those six extra words: “in a for-here cup, please.” It isn’t that big of a deal, but as often as I’m here, I’m guessing that its going to add up eventually!
I’ve been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount since February and there have been several things which have continually leapt from the pages during my study. One of those things is that the incredibly revolutionary way of Jesus is often found in a seemingly small change of focus. For instance, in Jesus’ Kingdom, we still see him expecting that prayer, fasting and serving the poor would be basic expressions of the life of faith – things which were common religious practices of the day (Matt 6:1-18). The “small” difference is that instead of doing those things to gain popularity or prestige for yourself, do them quietly to glorify God.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t even say, “do these things in secret” – he says, “when you do…” There’s an assumption that they’re going to be a part of your life, the question is not “if” or “should,” but “how” and “why.”
So what does this have to do with a ceramic mug? Several things – but two will suffice.
First, and perhaps most obviously, I’m convinced that there are lots of seemingly small changes we can make that will have an enormous difference – whether we’re talking about our impact on the environment, our spiritual health or inviting others to join us in our faith journey. I’m not going to spend much time on this one – read New Day Revolution, visit www.coolpeoplecare.org, or check out any number of other resources.
Secondly, why we’re doing something often has as much impact as what we’re actually doing. Jesus seemed pretty put-off by religious folks who would stand on street corners to pray so that others would know how righteous they were. One reason that many people resist making changes to benefit the environment is because they’ve been so turned off by Toyota Prius owners – those who cause pollution through what the philosophers of South Park dubbed worse than smog… the “smug.”
Some of us Christians have come from a subculture that said, “God’s going to burn the earth up anyway, so it’s a waste of time, and even poor stewardship, to be overly concerned about the environment.” In our desire to distance ourselves from this kind of religion and thinking, we have got to be more intentional about monitoring our own self-centered and egotistical tendencies.
It’s becoming more and more popular to be “green” – which I think is a good thing. Many folks have answered the “if” and “should” questions; let’s not forget to also ask the “how” and “why” as well. Does our contribution to the environment cause its own smug pollution? Bumper stickers on your vehicle can be a way to spread a message and they can be a way to display a sense of superiority.
Some readers will respond with, “That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not going to waste my time with that stuff; it’s just a way for liberal hippies to tell me what to do.”
I’m going to say this delicately…come on, don’t be an idiot. Let’s leave the melodramatics to the junior high girls (no offense ladies, I was a youth minister for too long…they’re incredibly melodramatic! If you want a list of the vices of junior high boys, I’d be happy to help you out!).
You don’t have to be a “liberal hippie” to be concerned about the environment. Lest you forget, hunters and fishers have been involved in environmental protection and clean up for a long time…coastal conservation is important if you want to actually catch any of those reds we all love. How many lakes are not fishable because of pollution? Anyone remember why it is that you aren’t supposed to eat too much big game fish? (Mercury…from pollution.)
It’s too easy to avoid responsibility by shifting the conversation to something that someone else did or didn’t do. Notice that Jesus didn’t tell people to stop praying, fasting or giving to the poor just because some hypocrites were doing the same thing for the wrong reason. So let’s avoid both ditches; we can’t run around feeling all smug and superior because we drive a hybrid… and we can’t bury our head in the sand so that we don’t get lumped in with Michael Moore.
And I guess this is probably the case with most issues, isn’t it?