King of the Hill
by Michael Crosby
(During Pastor George’s convalescence, we’ve asked some of our theology students to write the Messenger article.  Michael is an MDiv student at Fuller Theological Seminary.)

Have you ever watched that TV show King of the Hill? Right…neither have I. OK, I admit it, sometimes I indulge in mindless entertainment. If you’d like, you could pray for my soul. But the thing is, sometimes the TV surprises me.

This show, King of the Hill, is an animated comedy about a guy named Hank and his family and friends. Hank’s a traditional man. He’s lived in the same Texas town his whole life, works hard to support his family, loves football, and goes to church every Sunday. In one particular episode, called “Reborn to be Wild,â€? Hank disagrees with his young teenage son Bobby over the best way to worship Jesus.

At Hank’s request, Bobby starts attending a church youth group. Before long, Bobby befriends a Christian rock group and is quickly enamored with the excitement of Christian youth culture. He changes the way he dresses, calls Jesus “the J-Man,â€? starts designing tattoos that declare his allegiance to God, and comes home one day with an earring that he calls his “testimonial.â€? As you might imagine, Hank doesn’t take kindly to Bobby’s newfound faith. But why? The story could just end by inducing laughs through the somewhat exaggerated portrayal of “sold-out Jesus freaks,â€? or it could have criticized Hank for his failure to understand that different people worship Jesus in different ways. But it did neither of those things.

As the episode draws to a close, Bobby declares in a moment of frustration, “When I turn 18, I’m going to do whatever I want for the Lord. Tattoos, piercings, you name it.â€? Instead of getting angry, Hank brings Bobby out to the garage and takes an old box down off the shelf. In it are old pictures and toys—Bobby’s old beanbag buddies, his virtual pet, pictures of him dressed like a ninja turtle. “They’re so lame,â€? laughs Bobby, “I can’t believe I collected those things.â€? And Hanks response? “Bobby, I know you think the stuff you’re doing now is cool, but in a few years you’re going to think it’s lame. And I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.â€?

See, Hank was afraid that Bobby’s exciting love for Jesus was too closely tied to a set of fads—what he wore, how he talked, the music he listened to. But what happens when those fads go out of style? Does Jesus get tossed into that box where we keep our old jewelry, our platform shoes, or our neon stretch-pants?

The Bible calls this idolatry. When God commands us to “make no idols,â€? God is worried that we will forget to worship God and instead worship those things that merely represent God. And when we do that, we risk tossing God out like an old pair of jeans. Please, don’t mishear me. In last week’s Messenger, Pastor George wrote about the importance of striking a balance between maintaining our old traditions and allowing our faith to sometimes critique those traditions. Put another way, it’s not wrong to find different kinds of music more worshipful than others, or to get excited about lots of different ways to praise God—these things are gifts from God that we use to express our worship. But it is wrong when our modes of worship blind us to the One whom we worship, rather than allowing us to see that One shining ever more brightly into our lives. May the Lord remain present in your lives—and not in your old boxes—as you follow Jesus each and every day this week.