Part 14 – The Folly Of Trying To Live The Christian Life – Pt 2
If we are believers in Christ, we have the divine life within us. Period. So what does that mean to us? How does that reality help us to live the Christian Life? Is there a way that we can live the Christian Life? Here are two illustrations to help us understand the folly of what we have been trying to do.
The Sardine Illustration (by Gene Edwards)
There once lived a little sardine who did not want to be a sardine. He wanted to be a human. Not a dog, mind you, but a human. He wanted to move up two whole classifications of life. With this ambition burning in him, our disconsolate little sardine began to make inquiries on how to become a human.
His first counsel came from a red herring. “So, you wish to be happy, to be the sardine God intended for you to be, and to live for Him?” “No, I want to be a human,” protested the sardine.
“Never mind, the answer is all the same. If you really want to be what God wanted you to be, you need human education. Not one of these fish schools, but a human university. Then you will be the most victorious sardine possible. Remember, if you wish to please God and be all you can be, become the most educated fish in the ocean. Education is essential to the victorious fish . . . er . . . human . . . life.”
His second piece of advice came from a swordfish. “The secret to the victorious fish life? Ah, that is simple.” “But I want to be human,” protested the little sardine.
“Same thing,” said he. “Now listen to me. Read the entire human encyclopedia. Then read it again and again. Then memorize it! That’s what you have to do. And remember,” the swordfish added gravely, “if you don’t read it and memorize it, God won’t love you.”
A big freshwater tear came pouring out of the little sardine’s eye. “I have a problem,” he said very sadly. “I can’t read.” He paused and turned away, speaking to himself softly. “Well, first I’ll go to a good human university; I’ll learn to read, and I’ll read and read, and read and read … and memorize the whole human encyclopedia. And then God will love me, and then I’ll be a human!”
The next fish the little sardine encountered was a very solemn-looking lobster, who was solemnly eager to aid the little sardine in his quest to be human.
“The secret to the victorious fish life? There’s only one answer! You must be the most moral fish in fishdom. And, of course,” he said reassuringly, “this is also how you become a human, and how you remain a good human.
“First,” he said, glaring down at the little sardine ever so sternly, “first, give up those fishy ways of yours. Here, you poor, wretched sardine. Here. See this,” he said menacingly as he shoved something at the little sardine. “The four hundred rules, laws, and ordinances you have to do to make God happy. Memorize these! And never break a single one of them or you will be in big trouble. BIG trouble! Do what I say and you will find out for yourself this is how you become a human,” he declared, and not without a great sense of satisfaction. “And it’s how you live by human life, too.
“Remember, keep all the rules, and eventually you will become human. And,” he repeated as his voice trailed off, “break them, even one of them, and you will never see humandom.”
The little sardine was just beginning to try to swallow all this when a beautiful, happy, smiling goldfish swam up. “I hear you are looking for the key to victory,” said the goldfish effervescently. “Well, actually,” replied the rather subdued sardine, “I want to be a human, but —”
“Same thing!” interrupted the goldfish. “Let me tell you all about it. It’s easy. Be positive. Look on the bright side of things. God wants us all to be happy. And,” he said, his chest swelled out, “and He wants us all to be prosperous! Think nice thoughts. Be kind. Be gentle. And be loving. Always be loving, no matter what. Most of all, see yourself as happy, prosperous, and human! Do all this and you’ll be transformed into the successful human.”
The little sardine couldn’t help but be cheered up by so sunny a prospect. He was just about to practice a big large smile when he heard: Hey you! “You, sardine! I heard you were looking for the secret. Don’t pay any attention to those other fish. I’ve got the secret.”
The little sardine wiggle-waggled his way over to the great imposing mussel fish. For the next ten minutes the little sardine was challenged, exhorted, and inspired to “evangelize, serve God, give your talents to the Lord, and carry out the Great Fishmission to the uttermost parts of Oceania.”
The little sardine was just about to stick out his chest, bow his neck and launch out into an Oceania-wide evangelistic crusade when he heard a: Psssttt!
“Not true,” came a voice filled with both mystery and confidence. “You’ve heard from the goldfish, the lobster, and the red herring, haven’t you, little sardine?” “Yes, and the swordfish and the mussel fish, too,” said the little sardine.
“I’ve tried their way, too. None of them work. They don’t have what you are looking for. I’ve found the answer. You don’t have to be miserable anymore. This works.”
“Wow!” cried the little sardine. “I’m sure glad to find someone who knows. What is the secret? And what kind of fish are you, anyway? I’ve never seen anything like you. You glow in the dark. Meeting you is electrifying. I think you must really have the answer!”
“I am a glow fish. And the answer, the secret, is your mouth. You have to speak human. They have a language, you know. There is a human language,” said the glow fish with great wonder, and with yet another hint of mystery.
“Speak in human. That’s the answer. It gives you victory and power. Think about it. And, you can also be the most powerful sardine in the pond. (Heal all the other sardines!)”
The little sardine was absolutely euphoric as he wiggle-waggled off. “I’ve got six different possibilities to pursue. One of them is bound to work. I know! I know what I’ll do! I’ll try all six at once.”
Will our little sardine make it? Not a chance. Will he end up frustrated? Absolutely. Discouraged? Bet on it.
The truth is, no sane sardine (or tuna or salmon) would seriously entertain any such advice. A fish is simply the wrong form of life to consider living the human life. Simple biology stands in the way of his being human.
And what can our little sardine teach us? That virtually all that is being said to us about “the victorious Christian Life” is addressed to our human nature. Your human nature is as adept at living the Christian Life as a sardine’s life is adept at living the human life.
“In order to be a good Christian …” is addressing the wrong biological subject, if it is addressing our Homo Sapien life. Only one life form can live the Christian life. Any other species making an attempt at such a thing is doomed to failure before it begins.
Jesus lived the Christian Life, because it was natural to Him. “Christian” is the instinctive expression of Christ’s form of life. He is able to live the Christian Life, because He, and only He, is Christ. Therefore only Christ can live the Christian Life.
Christ is the Christian Life. And so we cannot live the Christian Life, unless we live by the life of Christ within us!
(Note: I am indebted to Gene Edwards for many of the concepts in this series.)
… Next time …. Part 15 – First Steps To Living The Christian Life