I don’t usually tend to use political examples, but the “Occupy ____” movement has left me fascinated. For the longest time, analysts have tried to narrow down the message to a unified core, to no avail. Talk to five protesters and you get five different messages. Even the supposed leaders of the movement don’t really represent a solid majority. The only things I can see in common are dissatisfaction and the need for self expression. But since they can’t really come around to a common concern or complaint, the movement is left with little real authority other than the sound of many small voices, each singing their own angry song.
I sometimes wonder if that’s how the world views Christianity. We all say we are Christians, and sometimes are even willing to stand together in the name of Christ. But ask us why we’re there and you’re likely to get many different, sometimes even conflicting statements. The problem is that Christianity is not a platform for self-expression. It’s the platform for God-expression communicated through his redeemed people in many and various ways. With God-expression, the person who is sharing or living that word of God is simply a conduit, a means by which God speaks to others.
Know the difference
Self-expression has a funny way of hiding behind our other motivations. Let’s take our protesters from above. They all think they are in some sort of unified cause, but in the end, it’s all very self-serving. Their joy seems to come from having their voices heard in the midst of a sea of soloists. It can be the same with us, so we need to know the difference. One way I’ve been able to check myself is by asking this question, “What gives me joy about this?” If my joy comes from people paying attention to me, or how beautifully I talk or how witty or funny I am, I’m totally missing the point. But if my joy comes from seeing God communicated with other people, then I’m focused on the right thing, and the expression can serve its proper purpose.
Turning Self-Expression into God-Expression
I don’t want to be a killjoy. We naturally enjoy all sorts of things. I naturally enjoy music and teaching and public speaking. I would probably enjoy those things whether or not I was communicating God’s word. You have expressions that you naturally enjoy too. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, those are likely the best ways for you to turn your self-expression into God-expression! My music means more to me and to others when it’s God-expression. Maybe for you it’s having great conversations with people. Maybe for you it’s caring for others. Maybe for you it’s speaking out for those who can’t speak out for themselves.
In the end, God is the authority, not you. Your individual voice is best heard in the chorus that sings together that beautiful harmony of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. That’s God-expression.