In Marvel’s latest, just-shy-of-a-billion dollars take, the blockbuster movie “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” the hero takes viewers on adventures across multiple realities – almost-identical worlds, worlds existing all at once. These are iterative other-copies of our own world, so to speak – where people almost like us, but not quite, live lives almost like we do, but not quite, and others just like us are even a lot not like us. It’s a sci-fi cornucopia, based on musings raised in the 1960’s to explain how things got here. And, some would also say, to get away from the need for God in those origins. That multiverse script offers something else that’s in vogue today: identity morphing. That means an infinite number of variations on me, just slightly not me, or a lot not like me, but all are still me. Get me?
Let me start by declaring I believe in the multiverse. Not as in, like a Dr. Strange multiverse. I mean the multiverse disciples operate in. And we can prove that multiverse is real. As you look at research on society and religions, especially Christianity, the lives of modern disciples suggest they live in one universe on workdays – and a completely different universe when they travel across space and time to their Sunday church surroundings or to their small groups and mission trips. The same person may even be very different in work universe A versus their persona in Christianity universe B. In some disciple universes we have a job and we keep our head down and just get-along. No one sees us as being/living much different from the rest of the crowd. Then cometh Sunday. We morph, donning our Sunday best, whatever that means, to show up personality-shifted, dressed, smiling and spiritual around our sis’s and bro’s in God’s house. Monday morning, whoosh. Back to the gray netherworld of work and neighbors and community stealth.
This is not an attempt to shame or cajole anyone. It’s a scrimmage with believers – about which universe we live in. And while it may be true our church, work and civic lives are far apart from each other – the disciple of Christ is to be the same across all of these worlds. For sure there will be plenty of challenges to try to get us to conform to the compromised and conflicted moments that traipse the regular workaday world. Those small moments where, if we simply laugh along, get along or compromise along, then people like us better, right? (Like Peter with the Judaizers in Galatians 2.) Or we just do what we have to so we can keep our jobs, yes? (Like Saul in 1st Samuel 13) Or we wade a little way into situations we already know are not good for us, but we don’t want to give up on the satisfaction….the FOMO wins over us. (Like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3.) Instead, we morph to that universe’s rules and ways.
A lot of people in the Church will try to argue that our best play is to just say no – to stay away from such environments. Yet that’s different from becoming someone else, or refusing to enter a world where bad things might happen. “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders?” 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 (ESV) Here Paul is telling by all means yes, go into other worlds. Go in the persona Christ called you to be, not being blown about by the winds and whipped around by human and frail philosophies and fantasies. We are servants of the Most High God. Bondservants, you probably know, are bankrupt and indebted. They have no capacity to advocate their wishes and wants, only their Master’s will. We have no rights and no privilege to swap out our lives as servants to pleasure or compromise ourselves for our whims. That’s discipleship, for the rest of our lives. We DO live in a sort of multiverse of views, attitudes, moralities and mores. But one unchanging thing in our multiverse journeys – we are unconditionally surrendered followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Who we are in Christ across all those social structures cannot change. Being kind in customs and respect? Absolutely. Being humble and winsome among people not like me? Definitely. But not a compromised bondservant. In 1st Corinthians 9 Paul spoke of “being all things to all people”. That was a statement about being able to communicate and hear people, but not to change or morph or compromise. Get into your multiverse, but strangely, so as to invite questions about who you are and Whom you are from.
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