Imagine a gigantic mural that is beautiful beyond description. Now imagine looking at this mural through a soda straw. You might see a small portion pretty clearly, but obviously, your view would be pretty limited, and you would find it impossible to perceive the whole if you were only able to view it through that soda straw. If you had any desire to see the big picture, you would get frustrated pretty quickly.
Now imagine if you were in a group of people who all stood next to each other and put their soda straws together facing the mural. If we were to do that and then step back, we’d find that we saw a much larger portion of the picture. Perhaps we wouldn’t see it in its entirety, and some parts might still be a bit fuzzy. But we’d certainly have a much better comprehension of the mural than we did while we were squinting through our soda straw.
We all have different perspectives based on our personality and life experience. That’s a good thing, and God created us this way. He also created us as a communal species. Meaning that God intended for us to be incomplete on our own. We need us. When we look at life and at God solely through the lens of our own personal experience, we’re seeing a very small portion of the big picture.
Many people get fixated on what they see through their soda straw. They think that the tiny bit that they see is The Picture, when in fact, it is simply a small portion of the picture—a single piece of the puzzle as it were. This is why we need all of us. We are pretty foolish when we form cliques and argue about whose piece of the puzzle is a more accurate representation of the whole picture.
This is one of the main reasons that the religious system of Christianity™ with its clerical class is so detrimental to spiritual growth. Week after week, Christians sit passively in their pew and look through one man’s soda straw. They rarely get the benefit of seeing what the people behind them are seeing, and those around them rarely benefit from their perspective.
What I am suggesting is that we return to the model that Jesus taught and that Paul echoed, in which each of us is a contributing member of the assembly. All voices are important. All gifts are needed. I am also suggesting that a Baptist might actually benefit from listening to a Catholic. And a Catholic might actually benefit from listening to someone of the Reformed persuasion. And maybe the Pentecostals aren’t wrong about everything.
Until we step back from the soda straw that religion requires us to squint through and actively join with other members of God’s family, we will miss out on a great deal of what God wants to show us.