This is the third post on adult baptisms and the dearth of them in some Presbyterian circles. It is ironic, or maybe just apropos, that last night I watched one of the few “spiritually” minded Seinfeld episodes. Elaine eventually realizes that her churl of an on-again-off-again boyfriend David Puddy, is a professing Christian. It took the “Jesus” fish and pre-set Christian radio stations for the sirens to finally sound in her head.
In all of the humor of the episode, and it is a fine one at that, I found it raised some wonderful concerns and questions about evangelism. Puddy, with his outwardly, culturally Christian indicators like Christians music, memorabilia, utterances of the 10 commandments when it suited him, displayed a quality consistent with many true Christians today. He didn’t care one bit about Elaine’s eternal salvation.
In fact, Elaine calls him on this, and posits this contradiction present within many of us: “If I am going to Hell, which I’m not, but if I am, you should care that I’m going to Hell.” Wow. How true.
While I’m not going to psycho-analyze a fictitious character, I think we can at least see WHY he didn’t care about the salvation of his girlfriend. And from that, how WE can care more about the salvation of our friends and neighbors.
1.) Outward Christian signs don’t necessarily reveal any spiritual depth.
The “Jesus” fish, the Christian music, even facebook posting of bible verses (I’m obviously pro-bible verse posting and am often encouraged by such verses
; however, we shouldn’t NECESSARILY
equate their posting to the Spirit working) are all accepted, and sometimes expected forms and demonstrations of personal faith. Yet it is possible to display such signs, even good signs, without the Spirit really at work changing our hearts. That is one reason we often don’t care: the Spirit isn’t at work in our lives and His fruit has been tossed aside and ignored so that we can focus on external demonstrations.
2.) The outward keeping of the God’s law, which is a good thing (His Law), can also lead us to care less about the salvation of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Puddy told Elaine to steal her neighbor’s newspaper. Elaine responded, “But that paper belongs to Mr. Potato guy. Why don’t you steal it?” Puddy quickly retorted,” Sorry, Thou shalt not steal.” Outwardly he didn’t steal, but inwardly he was obviously breaking the heart of the commandment by trying to get Elaine to steal it for him. Sometimes the outward conformity to God’s law, or simple morality can become an enemy of love for others, because we are in actuality, missing the arrow of God’s law: pointing us to Jesus. Hard to love others when we don’t see Jesus love for sinners like us.
3.) No grace, no care. Puddy then explains why it is OK for her, but not for him to steal: “Why does it matter if you steal it; you’re already going to Hell?” Obviously he has no concept of grace. If Puddy does break God’s law, he is hurting His chances of going to Heaven. So at this point, he knows nothing of grace. God has offered a salvation plan, which means following Jesus example. He doesn’t want to depart from that path because He doesn’t want to miss out; the doesn’t want to get zapped. That’s not grace. It’s no wonder he doesn’t care. That’s not really good news: do your best and don’t mess up or you’ll be cut from the team like an injured NFL star.
On another Seinfeld episode Puddy declares, “I got nothing.” He’s got nothing to share because he hasn’t tasted grace. When we don’t regularly taste grace, that we can’t screw up our salvation, we will care to share. We won’t care less, we’ll care more.
4.) Know grace, care. Finally at the end of the episode, Puddy has his heart broken as the priest delivers him the bad news: because he and Elaine are sleeping together, they are both going to Hell. At one point, this is beautiful. You see someone so confident in his good works realize that his sins have disqualified him for heaven. Unfortunately the priest tells them nothing of the gospel and so Puddy is left with nothing.
If he were a believer he could say, “I do need to repent from this sin of shacking up. And I will. You’re right about that. But no sin disqualifies me from Christ’s one time atoning sacrifice. I’m repenting and resting in Him.”
But because Puddy knows religion and not the gospel he is left hopeless. He didn’t care to share the gospel because he didn’t understand the gospel. He didn’t care about the life of his friend because He didn’t realize what Jesus has done for his people already. In order for our lives to demonstrate a greater concern for those outside Christ, we have to go back and see ourselves in both Elaine and Puddy. We do sin, and sin quite often. And we do many times follow the law, but our hearts have various motivations.
Yet the offer of the gospel is for the licentious and the religious, for people like you and me. And once we see that no one can say to the true believer, “You’re going to Hell,” that God would be even be acting unjustly to send the believer to Hell because he doesn’t re-punish sin, we will begin to see our apathy evaporate.