I was having coffee a few weeks ago with a mid-30’s, very successful businessman who considers himself a Christian. (I don’t know him well enough to know if that’s true, but he thinks he is.) But, I could see he was trying hard to impress me. So, toward the end of our time I asked him this question, “What role are you auditioning for?”
He was unsure what I meant so I went on to explain that we’re all auditioning for the part we hope to play in life. When I was a teenager I wanted to be rich. So, I watched how rich people dress, how they ate, how they carried themselves with confidence. I began acting like them and auditioning for the role I wanted.
Even though I came to faith more than 35 years ago, the truth is I’m still doing that. I’m still trying to impress people with how spiritual, clever, funny or self-confident I am, I still want to fit in and be admired by my friends and, paradoxically I also want to be known as a fully devoted follower of Jesus. And, every honest Christian I know lives this double-minded life. We’re all auditioning to impress someone or some group besides God.
Life is like a play. In fact, life is a series of plays. As young children, we try to figure out the role we play in our family. The first child has center stage until a brother or sister shows up, then it gets interesting. The older child because he or she is the first born, tends to be the most mature and responsible, likes that role and wants to keep it. They often go on to be the leaders in society, precisely because they’ve been auditioning for it since childhood.
The second born and other siblings figure out the only way they can get top billing is by being exceptional in something else. Some choose sports, or academics, others choose to be rebels. If you have a rebellious child or grandchild, you may find this story helpful.
A rebel without a cause I once took a group of six high school seniors out West for a week. They were all friends. One was clearly the leader. Another would be a gifted engineer someday and still another was a talented athlete and so on. But, one of the kids was always getting in trouble – breaking the rules and doing outrageous things to get attention.
A few weeks after the trip, I went to dinner with the trouble-maker, who I grew to like and admire. “John, do you know why you’re the bad-boy of this group?” (Of course, he didn’t.) “John, here’s what I think. When you guys began hanging out a few years ago, without even thinking about it, you noticed that the role of the athlete, the intellectual and the leader were already taken by the other guys. So, you auditioned for the only role left over, the bad-boy. You’ve managed to win the admiration of the group because they live vicariously through you. The trouble with that role is that you have to keep doing more and more outrageous, dangerous and sinful things to keep it going. You’ll either end up in jail, addicted or worse if something doesn’t change.
I’d like you to consider auditioning for another role – one that I think you’d be good at. I’ve noticed that you can be very kind to weaker people. I think you’d be a great social worker or terrific working with kids. But before you do, Jesus himself has a role for you that you don’t even have to audition for – the part of a follower of Jesus. It’s yours for the asking. Do you want it? Once you have it, the Holy Spirit will equip you with spiritual gifts to enable you to specialize in certain types of service to others. So, here’s the question John, “Are you willing to walk away from the bad-boy role you’ve gotten “good at” and take on the role of a follower of Jesus?”
John wasn’t ready to make that decision, that day and I’m unsure he’s ever made that choice. But, that is the choice before all of us.
My new rich young ruler friend I introduced at the beginning of this blog has the same offer from Jesus. But, he has been working so hard to impress his leadership friends with how clever and successful he is, that so far he too is reluctant to give up that role, to make being a serious follower of Jesus, the predominate role of his life.
So, what role are you auditioning for?
Is there a group of friends you want so to admire you that you’ve compromised what you claim to believe, to fit in? If they were asked to describe you, would one of the first things out of their mouths be that you’re a serious follower of Jesus? Or, would some other role you’ve been playing out for them roll off their tongue first?
“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” John 12:42-43
Question: I’d like to hear how you’ve wrestled with this issue. Would you let us know?
Following Jesus in Real Life