The Real Test

January 2008

‘Tis the season – for political hype in North America. Our elections are upon us and they provide a large amount of grist for the hype mill. It seems to start earlier every election year, with parties promoting and exaggerating the virtues of their favored ones.

Hype isn’t reserved for politics. Everything seems to be hyped these days. The word hype means to greatly exaggerate publicity to excite public interest, and it can be deceptive or dishonest. We encounter it in advertising every day, making it difficult to separate the chaff from the wheat. I enjoy watching programs that test the claims of new products to see if they live up to their hype. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t.

You’ve heard the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” This is good to keep in mind when shopping or voting, as well as the old maxim, “Buyer beware.”

Hype has crept into Christianity too, but so has antihype. All things Jesus tend to be either commercialized or played down to the point of becoming meaningless. To a lot of people, Jesus’ love and goodness have become mere platitudes spoken by religious types, with no meaning or power in real life.To them Jesus seems too good to be true. When something is too good to be true the reality doesn’t live up to the promises.

We bought an ice cream maker that looked easy and fun to use but didn’t live up to its promises. We didn’t find out until we put it to the test. A lot of folks approach putting Jesus to the test the same way we did our ice cream machine, as a product that should deliver the expected result. When it doesn’t, they dump it.

But Jesus is not a gadget and he’s not a cosmic vending machine. We can’t put in the right prayer coin, push a button and get what we want. The hype around us and our vending-machine mentality cloud our thinking about how to relate to him and how he relates to us. He’s a thinking, reasoning, sentient (to borrow from Star Trek) being. We know people don’t behave according to our expectations, so why would we put God in that box?

Just as we shouldn’t believe everything we read or hear about politicians or gadgets, so we shouldn’t believe the antihype about Jesus. He’s Creator and Lord of the universe and is better than all our expectations. But we must come to him with humility and surrender, not a what-can-he-do-for-me attitude.

The best way to get past the antihype surrounding Jesus is to get to know him. In Jesus’ prayer in John 17:3, he said eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ, whom he sent. Paul knew nothing was more important than knowing Jesus (Philippians 3). If any hype or antihype is interfering with how you see Jesus or relate to him, push past it and put him to the real test—get to know him.

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