I remember the first time I saw “The Wizard of Oz.” It was all so fantastic, with Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, and Scarecrow, all determined to make it to the almighty Wizard who had the power to change their unfortunate fate.
After working so hard, overcoming unimaginable obstacles, believing all the way that their only hope was in the hands of this great Wizard, this unlikely team discovered a twist in the plot. The Wizard of Oz was no wizard at all. While he had created an illusion that allowed him to appear and sound stronger and more powerful, he was just like the rest of the people – vulnerable and average. Though he was able to fabricate an image of someone or something “great,” his tricks couldn’t change reality in the long run. Once the curtain was pulled back, the truth was revealed, and the weakness of the Wonderful Wizard was in plain view.
Viewers were very disappointed in the small man who had manipulated the truth and misled Dorothy and her friends. Why would the wizard lie? Why would he attempt to appear to be something he wasn’t?
This small man was putting on a show to impress others. Perhaps he convinced himself that everyone needed him to be someone better and bigger. Maybe he felt so insufficient that he created this fictitious figure of perfection to offer stability and confidence for those who were searching for a source of hope. And so this man hid his vulnerabilities and eventually believed his own con.
This is my third column, presenting five simple steps toward turning our churches inside out. We discussed the need to drop the rocks and trade our suits for boots in the previous two weeks. While those are monumental steps, this third step may be the most difficult yet.
Christians must pull back the curtain. While no Christian sets out to become a fraud, it’s easy to construct a façade and conceal our vulnerability with a figurative curtain that makes us appear stronger, bigger, even better than the rest of the world.
So what’s behind your curtain? The truth is, a sinner is behind all our curtains, and we all desperately need Jesus. The world doesn’t need a fraudulent hope in an earthly wizard. They need Christians to pull back the curtain and give them a Savior.
For far too long believers have projected an image that’s larger than life, trying to appear to have it all together. Perhaps we assumed the world would be attracted to our perceived perfection, but instead we created an unrealistic standard for many.
How could they possibly live up to the standard of the church? Christians seem to have it all together. So many outside the church feel completely distant, disconnected, and foreign to the storybook lives of the average Christian.
The truth is that no Christian has it all together, and Christians are real people who make mistakes.
So why do Christians try to hide their humanity? We are naturally drawn toward a self-dependent religious system, founded on a works mentality. In truth, we just don’t want people to see us for who we really are, unworthy sinners. When believers attempt to convince everyone they’re perfect – and they condemn everyone who isn’t just like them or doesn’t agree with them on every doctrinal point, the world sees through the curtain. They are fully aware that we are just real people who are sinners. The only difference is Jesus.
We should not keep our fears, discomforts, and doubts behind the curtain. We have many, ranging from generational tensions, racial division, care for refugees, treatment of women, and the value of life, just to name a few. So how do we pull back the curtain? We must open up dialogue on issues that we tend to avoid because they make us uncomfortable.
The irony is that we are called to represent Christ as ambassadors, but most of our problems arise because we’re representing the concerns of another social or political group. Our faith should drive our decision-making process, but I’m afraid many American Christians would agree with that statement, while ignoring the heart of Jesus altogether. Ask yourself this question: Do my actions make me look more like Jesus or the Scribes and Pharisees?
The truth is the curtain isn’t really fooling anyone anyway. Sure, people might have believed the Almighty Wizard was real for a while, and there are some people who would believe he existed even after he was exposed, but the show can’t go on forever. No one can effectively put on a front that lasts. The projection of the Wizard’s image eventually began to fail, and his real identity became undeniably evident to all.
We too are vulnerable to the reality of our shortcomings, and our true identities will eventually be revealed even if we refuse to pull back the curtain. We’re not perfect, and our lost friends and family know it. We must make an adjustment to our missional strategy. Believers must stop attempting to bring people to Jesus by trying to appear better than everyone else. That is not attractive. In fact, it repels people from Christ.
The world truly is turned upside down, and we know that the only hope is for the body of Christ to turn inside out. The church, however, will never turn inside out as long as we keep playing games, pulling curtains, and projecting false images. The world needs us to start looking and living like Jesus, not hypocritical Pharisees.
The only hope for this world is for Christians to get real, be honest about our failures and fear – admit our vulnerabilities and embrace our own need for Jesus.