Monday, June 25, 2012
Baby Steps, Baby Steps...is the Gospel?
In the hilarious movie, "What About Bob?", the lead character, Bob is a neurotic, crazy man who is afraid of everything...dirt, elevators, boats, and the list goes on and on. Bob, played by Bill Murray meets an internationally acclaimed psychologist, Dr. Leo Marvin. Dr. Marvin's advice on confronting his fears is to deal with them one "baby step" at a time. Fear of elevators...go just to the second floor and then to the third until you're able to go all the way up to the top without falling apart. One of the key lines throughout the movie is "baby steps, baby steps, baby steps" as Bob comes face to face with his many fears. Bob walks down the streets of the city restating those words, "baby steps" over and over. Shear will power will get over those fears, try harder and do more is the call of Dr. Leo Marvin! And if that doesn't work we'll tie you to the boat and make you go sailing until you're no longer in fear. You may be afraid and scared out of your wits but you're "sailing"! You're performing on the outside but on the inside you're shaking like jello fresh out of the fridge.
So what does this have to do with the Gospel? Well Bob was told by Dr. Marvin that the way conquer his issues was by "trying harder" and to do one step at a time until those fears are gone. It sounds like good advice...until we realize the reason for those fears haven't gone away. Bob will still get those germs on his hands even though he thinks he won't. The only thing Bob was able to do was to cover those fears with outside performance but inside those fears raged inside him.
And this is what the law does to believers. We don't believe the Gospel and it's full implications for our lives so we "try hard" to get better and become perfect - we must perform to the demands of the law at all costs. On the outside we're masking a wonderful performance of "godliness" but on the inside we know we're not measuring up. Yet unlike Bob, who exposes his shortcomings, we hide ours so no one can see them. We can't be seen as falling short.
Also, as Bob fails to perform and can't do what is demanded to take his baby steps he returns to his "law giving" analyst and cries out, "I need I need I need". In the midst of his failures he returns to his law giver and asks from more rules and more laws. Sadly Dr. Melvin complies and gives him another "to do list".
The law does demand perfection but can't do a thing to bring us the perfection it demands. Just like Bob's baby steps we take a step trying to be better and get all excited when we conquer something in our own strength or will power or we become defeated when we fail. We are either so full of ourselves for our "successes" and then so distraught by "failures". So like Bob, we call, run to or beg our "Dr. Marvin's" to cure us. Dr. Marvin then gives Bob another to do list and out goes Bob trying to meet the demands of that list all over again. The cycle doesn't end until there is an invasion of unconditional love.
JD Greear writes in his book, Gospel - Returning to the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary, "What religion is unable to do, God does for us in the Gospel" (pg39). What he is saying is that the law (God's laws and the laws we put on ourselves or others) has no power to do anything but demand. Whereas the Gospel has all the power because in Christ, those demands were all met in His life, death and resurrection. Anything outside of Christ falls hopelessly short.
In the end of this movie Bob overcame his fears and Dr. Marvin went crazy. How? Why? Dr. Marvin lived by his rule keeping life and fell short. He wound up not being able to be the person he portrayed himself to be so he lost it. He tried to perfect his TV appearance and show his perfect little family. Dr. Marvin demanded obedience which if possible, would give freedom. It never came.
Bob on the other hand overcame his fears by love and the unconditional acceptance by Dr. Marvin's family (his wife and kids)! He knew who he was and was loved anyway which allowed him to be himself. He believed in the love he received from the family which changed his behavior!
And this is the Gospel! Because we are accepted and loved unconditionally by God because of Jesus' performance for us, our fears will disappear until that time we forget the Gospel again (Rom 8:14-16) and then we preach it to ourselves again...everyday.