Friday, May 14, 2010

You are (not really) special

There was something rubbing me the wrong way about some Sunday school play scripts we were looking at. The message of almost every scenario was either "You are special in God's eyes" or "Everyone is special in God's eyes."

I'm not sure why, but to me this seemed like an incomplete representation of God's love for us and of how we should relate to others.

For one thing, take out the “in God’s eyes” part and you could have any bumper sticker or maybe group therapy message.

The typical scenario goes like this:  
All the animals (flowers, letters of the alphabet, etc.) are arguing about who is more important.

A mediator enters the scene, tells everyone to hush and work together, then they collectively make a pretty rainbow/bouquet/picture, and finish with “EVERYONE IS SPECIAL!”... read more/-

Now, when the disciples were arguing about who was greatest, Christ said something a little different.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." (Mark 9:35-37)
To end an argument with “everyone is special” to me sounds like “it’s a tie, you all win.” But the point is that we ought not to seek victory OVER one another. Our response should not be “see, you’re not better than me,” but “It’s true, I’m not better than you.”  1 Corinthians 1:28 says, "He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."

However, I realize that there is another side to it. People do need to hear different messages, based on their life experiences and the condition of their hearts. I’ve never particularly felt unloved. Kids from an orphanage might feel differently. Anyone who’s faced rejection at one time or another might have really needed to hear “you are special.”

So it isn’t that the message of being special and unique and loved is necessarily false or unchristian. Overused, perhaps?

How much do children need to be told that they are “special”? What do you think? How can we teach them their worth for the Kingdom in such a way that brings glory to God? That demonstrates what a privilege it is to be called His child? That allows them to look at others not as EQUAL to but as BETTER than oneself?

2 comments:

  1. Yes; that idea is overused...and lacking in truth, too. Somehow, even as a child, it always seemed clear that if EVERYONE is "special", then NO ONE is "special", because, like the disciples, what we want is to have the place in the front of the line, the "best" seat, the most regard, to be thought of first, etc. Seems like this is a way of squashing THAT desire somewhat unfairly. And, it IS contrary to Jesus' way! You're right! And I never thought about it from that point of view.

    Yes; everyone wants to be special, but being TOLD we are special (particulary when we know everyone ELSE is told the same thing) seems a dishonest use of the word, and I don't think it fools anyone.

    Another Christian message might be that everyone is VALUABLE, everyone has UNIQUE gifts, everyone is as VITAL to the body as the next (i.e. the hand is not greater than the eye, etc.)

    And I do believe Jesus said that the greatest is the one who is least, the one who serves the others. A far better (and truer) message, that might actually promote Christian action, not just give the teachers the idea they've built "self esteem".

    I just thought of a Zoschenko short story with this theme (not that Zoschenko is proper material for a Sunday School class - but I loved this story.) A bunch of actors were all arguing about who had the better part and was more important in the play. In the end the guy responsible for the lighting just turned out the lights on them. Perhaps that stuck with me because I'd been in theatre, but I thought it was both funny and apt. (Perhaps not here, though!)

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  2. I should clarify; some of the scenarios do have the line, "Everyone is NEEDED." I was paraphrasing. But again... we do need each other as members of one Body, but does God really NEED us to accomplish His work? It still seems a little me-centered, but I agree that it is good to encourage everyone to get involved and use their gifts.

    Funny timing with the Zoschenko as we were just introduced in our literature class. I haven't read that particular story, but it sounds amusing.

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