I just finished reading a book called “Classic Christianity” by Bob George that I would highly recommend. It was first published about 30 years ago so it’s not exactly on the Trendy Christian Reading list, nor is it super academic, but I’ve found it to be a refreshing reminder of the simple truths that breathe life and freedom into the Christian life.
One of the strongest aspects of this book is its illustrations. I wanted to highlight one in particular that I found to be both insightful and challenging. George was discussing the difference between a legalist and the true Christian, and he described it the following way:
“Imagine yourself in a large house, in which are living both deaf and hearing people. They are all mixed together, and you can’t tell by looking who is deaf and who has hearing. Sitting in a room by himself is a man. As you watch, you notice that he is tapping his toes rhythmically and snapping his fingers in time. You know what is happening. He’s listening to music, and obviously enjoying himself. His whole body wants to respond to what his ears are receiving. There’s nothing strange or mysterious about it.
But now, let’s add a new person to the scene. One of the deaf persons opens the door and enters the room. He immediately sees the first man and walks over to him and smiles a greeting. The deaf man watches the music-lover for a few moments. ‘He sure seems to be enjoying himself,’ he thinks. ‘I think I’ll try it, too.’ So the deaf man sits next to the first man and begins to imitate him. Awkwardly and haltingly at first, he tries to snap his fingers, tap his toes, and move like the person next to him. Everybody has some sense of rhythm, whether they can hear or not. After a little practice, he deaf man is snapping and tapping in time with the first man. He even smiles a little and shrugs: ‘It’s not that much,’ he thinks, ‘but it’s okay.
Let’s now add our final factor to the story. A third man walks into the room. What does he see? Two men, apparently doing the same thing. But is there a difference? Absolutely! All the difference in the world! The first man’s actions are natural responses to the music he hears. The deaf man is only imitating those outward actions–even though he can’t hear a noise. That is the difference between real Christianity and legalism!”
I really love this illustration because it challenges me to question the very source of my Christian lifestyle. Do I make choices and I do and live the Christian life as an overflow of my love for the Lord? Or am I merely keeping in time with those around me, copying what I think I’m expected to do. While the latter option can fool people (and yourself) for a time, it’s unsustainable. Like the deaf man who thought, “This isn’t THAT great,” you won’t keep the Christian life up if you don’t experience the fullness of it. It won’t be worth it.
With this in mind, who are you in the story? Are you the man who hears the music and cannot help but dance to it, or the man who simply imitates him? If you find yourself in the latter category, living a life of imitation instead of inspiration, I encourage you to listen to the music. Take some time to read the Bible and remember just why the news is so good. Meditate on the character and good will of your Father in Heaven. Spend time rejoicing over the gift of His Son and praying to know Him better. Only by taking time to stop and listen to the music of the Gospel will we be compelled to dance. Otherwise, we’ll have to settle for simply imitating those who actually are.