Did you like my Trinitarian joke?
The worst part of having a Seminary Education is making stupid jokes like “Audience of Three in One”. Seminary jokes are like really bad dad jokes.
Don’t worry this post isn’t about Trinitarian theology, its worse. This post is about broadcasting our faith.
This past Wednesday marked the beginning of the Lent season with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a very “vocal” Christian Holiday. You literally celebrate it by putting an ash cross on your forehead. I can think of very few other actions you could do to broadcast your faith more. I mean just thinking practically about this, everyone looks at your face when they see you. The Ash Cross screams “I know Jesus!” just like a tear drop tattoo screams “I killed a dude!”.
That broadcast is, to me, the perfect way to broadcast our faith.
This morning I preached a Sermon on Matthew 6: 1-8, 16-18. Don’t worry there were tons of cheesy jokes in that sermon that I won’t make you read. The theme of the sermon was pretty simple; don’t be a jerk. More specifically don’t be the jerk who does good deeds so that other people are impressed by you.
In case you haven’t heard the phrase “Audience of One” before, the phrase is a relatively common “Christianism” that is used to remind people that only God’s opinion matters. This phrase was popularized by the Big Daddy Weave song called, <drumroll> “Audience of One”. This little phrase, like most things in the Church, has been used in a multitude of ways. Some people use it to remind people that God is constantly watching you and you must not screw up. Others use it to remind people that you need not worry what other people say about you because all that matters is what God thinks.
I am going to add another way to use this phrase; don’t.
No, I am just kidding you should use this phrase but if you do recognize this; it doesn’t mean any of those things.
The mentality of serving or having an Audience of One comes from the aforementioned text; Matthew 6:1-18. In that text Jesus is describing how Christians should differentiate themselves from the Pharisees. The Pharisees do everything so that other people can see their good works and recognize how great they are. The Pharisees are like the rich family on your block that parks a $200,000 Mercedes G Wagon in their driveway. They desperately want everyone to know how amazing they are.
The psychologist in my thinks this is probably due to the fact that the Pharisees had bad childhoods and desperately seek the approval of others to make up for it. However most likely this behavior is just engrained into our sinful nature. I think we all have a little bit of this in ourselves. Sure, most of us don’t really want everyone to know we have a G Wagon but we still seek the approval of others. We all want on some level for the community in which we associated with to agree with our decisions.
So how does this relate back to our conversation of an “Audience of One”?
Simply put; we need to have a motivation check. As Christians we should do things because we are called to do them not because we want the praise associated with the action. Why should you love your neighbor as yourself? Because you were loved first by God and because you are literally commanded to do so. The command is the motivational factor here not anything that we might get in return whether that be social, physical or crypto currency.
If we have an Audience of One mentality we would forgive because God calls us to forgive as we are forgiven. We would love those outside the church as we were loved by God. (The whole sacrificial love thing should come to mind here.) We would live lives like Christ because we were called to that not for any other reason whatsoever.
At this point if you are anything like me you are probably saying “well duh”.
I think that while this is Christianity 101 its also something that people inside of the church seem to struggle with greatly. I cannot tell you the number of women and men who I’ve met who are on three committees in the church and want me to know every time we talk how exhausted they are. There are Christians in the church who after serving a needy population make sure everyone knows about it during prayer or announcements.
This is one of those hard topics to define because there isn’t really hard and fast rules on it. It’s not like we can say anytime you are speaking of a need that was filled you are sinning. There are plenty of times that needs being filled are joys that the congregation could celebrate. It really just comes down to a gut check of you own personal motivations. This is something that no one else in the entire world can tell you what they are. It truly is an audience of one between you and God.
Here is my challenge for you and myself. Pay for the person behind you in line at Starbucks. After paying for them don’t pull up and wave to them so they can acknowledge it but rather throw your Crosstrek into first gear and slam on the gas pulling out as fast as you can. Then say a prayer for that car and then forget all about it while you rock out to Kayne West’s Graduation album.