I’m now 40 years old, and I still don’t drink coffee. I’m guessing that means I may never pick up the habit. I have more juvenile caffeine sources that come with more fizz and pop. However, if I were to try a more sophisticated morning drink, I would probably dabble into the world of tea.
Tea bags are interesting if you think about it. These small dry packets contain the raw materials that come alive and reveal their true taste and color when steeped in a hot cup of water. Plunge that baby in, wait a couple minutes, and you discover what’s inside that tea bag. What’s in that bag will produce a flavor you find appealing, or something you want to spit out of your mouth.
This is an apt metaphor for spiritual formation. The ancient Scriptures insist that the invisible contents of our interior — our character, values, beliefs, and worldview — eventually color and shape the “flavor” of our visible life and interactions. Jesus says,
“A good person brings good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and an evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).
He rebuked the self-righteous religious leaders for “polishing the outside of the cup” while the interior was dirty and nasty: “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34).
Christians have a long and sour reputation for being “hypocrites” who spout pious platitudes one moment, but when steeped in a hot cup of everyday reality, respond in ways that taste nothing like Jesus. As my professor likes to say, “Forgiveness is a nice idea…until you have something or someone to forgive.” The label on our box may say Chai Tea but when you take a sip we taste like Green Tea.
I’m a pretty good Christian when I’m hanging around the people I like, or relaxing on vacation with a good book. But what am I like when I’m steeped in stress or plunged into a volatile relational conflict? When crushed, squeezed or soaked, do I have the taste and aroma of Christ?
Another way to put it is: What you fill yourself with all day long, is what will come out when pressed or squeezed. Even my kindergartener will tell you, “What goes in must come out.”
I’m still processing the survey that revealed American adults consume 11 hours of media each day. We have a good idea what much of that “input” consists of: partisan political coverage, cynical late night commentary, mindless streaming and binging, shallow social media scrolling and comparing, video game escapism, and so on.
How might our lives give off a more Jesus-like flavor if we were filling our tea-bag lives with a steady flow of Christ-soaked wisdom, truth, values and teaching? What if we were steeping ourselves in Christian commentary on the news, biblically grounded and Jesus -shaped perspectives on politics? Paul urges us to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16), not the words of worldly pundits and cynical satirists.
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has said, “Listening to Republicans and Democrats debate is just listening to two groups argue whose version of the world we should be conformed to.” What if we took serious our Christian calling to be a radical alternative to both, and “Be no longer conformed to the thinking of the culture but instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2)?
Like that Lipton tea bag, the stuff we let fill our heart and mind will be revealed when we’re dipped into another day of life and all its challenges. What goes in will soon flow out. So, let us heed the ancient wisdom of Proverbs 4:23: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow springs of life.”
- Will you consider doing a “media audit” as we begin a New Year? Calculate how much media you’re consuming daily, and whether it is the kind of stuff that will give your life the flavor of Christ or not. Use the following to guide your audit:
Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) _____ Hrs / Week
TV / Video Streaming (Shows, Movies, etc.) _______ Hrs / Week
Web Browsing (News articles, YouTube videos, etc.). ______ Hrs / Week
Audio Media (Car radio, Spotify, Podcasts, Audio books) _____ Hrs / Week
Video Gaming _______ Hrs / Week
2. Now, calculate how much Christian content flows into your life each week (sermons, Bible reading, and other media sources).
3. Will you consider replacing less profitable media with more Christ-centered media? MainStreet will be working hard to feed you more life-giving, Kingdom content through articles, videos, podcasts, devotionals and more.