Wednesday, March 16, 2011

American Idol Part Five: The Popeye Syndrome

What? Never heard of it? Me either. I just made that up in connection with on-going consideration of idolatry in the life of Christians. Don't ever agree to study/teach a book of the Bible or a topic concerning Christian character where you are not willing to buckle up and prepare to be convicted of your own sin. Happens every time. Thank the Lord it happens every time. He is in the business of assuring us that 2 Tim.3:16 is true: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness....."

So what does this have to do with Popeye and his statement? We and Popeye like to hear Psalm 139:13,14. "For you (God) formed my inward parts; You knit me in my mother's womb. I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And this is true. The creation of man in the image of God is the highest expression of God's omnificence, His "all-creativeness." His making us as we are, fully human yet in His image, is beyond our comprehension but not beyond our need as Christians to be conformed and ever-conforming into the likeness of Jesus. It is our love of self, our idolatry, that whispers in our ear, "You're just MADE this way. No need to change. No possibility of change."

Popeye's friend, Wimpy, is so easy to be around. He's easy-going, doesn't get in a hurry, gets along with everyone, is a peacemaker, and is generally tolerant of everyone around him. Wimpy doesn't like to hear Proverbs 12:24 "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor." Wimpy will gladly promise to pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today but when Tuesday rolls around the promise is long forgotten or buried under the latest platter of burgers. Wimpy means well and is so darn pleasant. He just never gets there.

This guy gets there. He gets right there in your face. Brutus is strong-armed and strong-willed. He never met a fight he didn't like. If you need the job done and done thoroughly, Brutus is your man. What's that quote? "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Brutus ain't scared'a'nothin'. When he snarles, "I'll take care of you, you little pipsqueak," you along with Popeye start looking for that can of spinach. Brutus gets the job done but leaves bodies in his wake and ladies and children trembling in their boots. The apostle Paul was once a Brutus named Saul until the Lord got ahold of him. One minute he was martyring Christians and the next, preaching a gospel of repentence to other brutes.

Olive Oyl. Can't you hear her coyly calling out, "Oh, Pop-eyyy?" Happy go lucky, demostrative, affectionate, popular, cute and bouncy Olive Oyl. Uh, that would go along with disorganized, inconsistent, scatter-brained, naive, forgetful Olive Oyl. "But I just can't help it. I'm made that way," she wails as she pulls Popeye out on the dance floor.
Popeye, Wimpy, Brutus and Olive Oyl can stay just as they are. They need to. That's what makes the cartoons so entertaining and funny. We all see a bit of ourselves in the characters whose popularity continued for decades until cartoons like Transformers came along. Trouble is, I still need to be transformed. Yes, I am made in the image of God exactly according to His plan and pattern. The problem lies in the fact that I inherited that sin nature from the first Adam and my personality or natural bent has its own set of shall we say, less than lovely traits. I like verses 13 and 14 from Psalm 139, too, but like Popeye, I need to hear verses 23 and 24 of the same Psalm. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." If instead I once again seat myself on the throne of that's just how I am, I am guilty of idolatry. Of loving myself, of finding myself more important, of more value than my Savior who lived and died to ever-transform me and my heart. Take heart. "We are children of God and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." 1 John 3:2,3

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