I remember a time before reality TV. A time when stories were told, news was reported, documentaries were produced to take viewers deep into places unknown, and cooking shows were of the Julia Child variety where the most unexpected thing might be seeing her drop an entire cooked turkey onto the floor. Bon Appetite!
Now we are inundated with “reality” shows that aim to titillate, shock, and disturb, in an effort to sell more products. With a plethora of bachelors, back-biters, unreal and highly nipped and tucked “housewives,” big brothers watching from cameras in every room, and well-scripted scenarios of misbehavior below decks, we have lost the distinction between fiction and reality. These guilty pleasures are harmless as long as you understand that distinction. Trust me, what you are seeing is all fiction. Reality is found elsewhere.
Our lectionary passages from John’s writings this week keep pulling us back into God’s reality of the connection between love and obedience. Keeping God’s commandments is the way we demonstrate our love for God, and a way that we experience his love for us. By giving us order, God keeps us safe and protected inside his loving arms. And when he sent Jesus, we were commanded to love one another as a proof of our love for God:
1 John 5 (The Message)
1-3 Every person who believes that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, is God-born. If we love the One who conceives the child, we’ll surely love the child who was conceived. The reality test on whether or not we love God’s children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome.
A key component to the gift of the commandments is that they are not meant to be troublesome, but to bring life to our lives. Staying within those safety rails is a way to experience wholeness and freedom. When we follow God’s law, we separate ourselves from the chaos of the world. Jesus conquered the world with his death-killing death:
The Power That Brings the World to Its Knees
4-5 Every God-born person conquers the world’s ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.
6-8 Jesus—the Divine Christ! He experienced a life-giving birth and a death-killing death. Not only birth from the womb, but baptismal birth of his ministry and sacrificial death. And all the while the Spirit is confirming the truth, the reality of God’s presence at Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion, bringing those occasions alive for us. A triple testimony: the Spirit, the Baptism, the Crucifixion. And the three in perfect agreement.
Just think of it! We are invited to partake in the reality of his spirit, his baptism, and his crucifixion.
There is nothing that television can script that could even come close to the disruptive and shocking reality of what Christ did on the cross for the benefit for all of humanity…and we get to participate in it with him. His baptism becomes our baptisms, his resurrection gives us eternal life, and his Spirit helps us defeat the world as we make better choices and live within his commandments.
All of this is a gift, given to us without price. So next time you indulge in a moment of “reality TV,” consider the truth and reality of God’s presence in your life. It is far better than anything you will see.