In my sermon "Losing Your Religion" I have an illustration where I tell about how my brother and I went to a circus in Hollywood on the day they were setting up for their show. We saw these little ponies on a treadmill trotting around and around. They were so cute and happy with their little harnesses jingling and jangling as their little pony legs pranced to the sound of circus music. We were immediately drawn to them and like every red blooded American boy; each of us secretly wished we had one of our own. When I reached out to pet one a nearby circus worker shouted at me and said, "Hey.....don't pet the ponies!"
"Why not?" I said with the same look on my face that my kids get when they're about to do something I just told them not to do.
"They bite!" was his only reply.
I almost started laughing. Everyone knows that ponies don't bite. What in the world was this guy's problem? I just decided to stand there with my hands in my pockets and wait for the "carne" to leave. Five minutes later he was off frying corn-dogs or something and I stepped forward and reached out my hand to pet my little circus pony. To my utter astonishment, he snarled and snapped at me! He showed his pony teeth and actually tried to bite me! And he growled. This thing was like a pit-bull in a pony suit. I couldn't believe my eyes. What in the world happens to ponies that makes them this angry at the world?
I thought about this for years. I racked my brain to figure out why these ponies were so angry and mean. Then, I put myself in the ponies place, and it made total sense. Imagine, being on a treadmill, forced to go around and around for the rest of your life. You long to just walk straight and explore the world but someone has tied you to a contraption that f
orces you to go in circles your entire life. These particular ponies were wearing blinders on their faces so they could only see directly in front of them. They weren't allowed to even see the world to the right or left or anywhere beyond their treadmill. I could imagine becoming pretty pissed off if that were me.
This is precisely what I see in modern day Christianity. Christians are often times the meanest people you will ever meet. I used to own two businesses, and I can tell you firsthand that we were able to accurately judge whether or not a person was a Christian simply by how mean-spirited they were during our business relationship. I can't tell you how many times someone was downright rude to us, and as they walked away, my wife looked at me and said, "They must be Christians." We would find out the very next day that she was absolutely right. In my catering business, I finally had to make a rule that we would not cater parties put on by churches. I simply had to do this because my employees were so mistreated at these parties they would end up quitting on me.
If you go on most Christian websites where there is a comment section, a chat room or a forum that allows people to communicate with each other, you will see exactly what I mean. It's so bad that it's embarrassing. Everyone is biting and attacking everyone. The level of self-righteousness, and condescension is so thick it's difficult to even function in the midst of it all. People are selfrighteously rebuking and correcting everyone. It's an internet blood bath. For this very reason, I decided in my mind that when we built the Free Believers Network, we would never have a forum. I was terrified that Free Believers would behave the same way I've seen Christians behave for the last twenty years.
I was wrong.
I can honestly say that I have been totally blown away by how loving and gentle people are when they come to the Free Believers Network Website. We positioned people on the forum to jump in and warn anyone who was rude or looking for a debate to knock it off or they'll be banned from the site. Amazingly it almost never happens! In the last year, we have had only about 5 people leave rude comments on the Blog page. That's pretty amazing when you consider that hundreds of people visit our website every day leaving comments to the blogs and articles. Out of those five people who did behave rudely; every single one of them still attend an institutional church and would not consider themselves to be Free Believers. They either stumbled on the site by accident or they came because they had a Free Believer friend who referred them to the site.
The point of all of this is not to try and hoist Free Believers up above other Christians. I'm simply expressing what I have observed in the last year with this website. I am certain that the difference in attitude lies in the freedom. Free Believers are NOT on the religious treadmill they were raised on. They're not stuck "grinding at the mill" going around in circles week after week. They don't care to debate anything because they live by what they KNOW instead of what's been taught to them. They don't fight for points of doctrine because their relationship with the Father is their personal doctrine.
There is no denominational ties and boundaries among Free Believers. None of us consider ourselves to be linked to any denomination, so whoever comes into our path, is accepted as an equal almost right away. I literally watch this happen every day on this website! I feel a general spirit among us that resembles a group of people sitting in heaven looking back on their time on earth and laughing at how silly they all were. Once we've all made it to the destination, no one cares anymore what church you went to or whether or not you believed in the doctrine of the trinity or creationism. The Free Believer spirit is extremely laid back and secure.
I find that the institutional system teaches people about a freedom that they need to fight for, but they set it up so the people will never gain it no matter how hard they fight. The frustration and aggravation builds in people's hearts and they begin snapping and slamming one another. The goal for these people is heaven at the end of their life. With Free Believers however, I have noticed an entirely different world altogether. These people behave as though they have already found heaven on earth. Even in the midst of life's sometimes painful moments I watch the average Free Believer handle it so amazingly different from the average institutional Christian that the contrast is too huge to pass off as coincidence.
In the same teaching where I give the illustration about the "snarling ponies," I also end with an illustration about a hamster I owned as a child. His name was Brownie. One day I came home from school to find that Brownie had escaped from his cage. He evidently found a way to climb on the top of his treadmill and use it as a ladder to escape through an opening at the top of the cage.
We searched the house for hours for that hamster and couldn't find him. My father told me that if we didn't find Brownie within the next day or two, we would have to put him down when we did find him because he will become wild. This, as far as I was concerned, was an impossibility. You don't put hamsters "down." They don't become wild like Tigers or Bears. I honestly thought that was the most ridiculous thing in the world.
We didn't find Brownie in the next day or two. We didn't find him until a little over two weeks had passed. My brother started yelling from the basement that he had found Brownie. We all thundered down the stairs as excited as could be. Sure enough; Brownie was sitting quietly in the corner of the basement. I couldn't believe he was still alive. How did he eat? Where did he find water? It was nothing short of amazing that this hamster was still among the living. To top it off, he actually looked quite healthy!
When I walked over to pick him up - this hamster literally stood on his hind legs, showedhis teeth and hissed at me. I could not believe my eyes! He wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He was officially wild. My father was right! He actually preferred finding his own food in the wild, over having it freely measured in a bowl in his cage. He would rather search the house for water than sit in a cage and nibble it freely out of his straw like canteen. The only difference in Brownie's appearance was that he looked about fifty times stronger than he ever did before he escaped.
I go on to say in that particular sermon what I want to say to every Free Believer reading this article. Once you have a taste of freedom, don't ever allow yourself to be put back into bondage! I want to see you standing on your hind legs, showing your teeth and hissing at "religion" when it tries to cage you again. My goal is to raise a herd of wild hamsters who guard their freedom with their life! Wild hamsters who prefer to find food and water in the wild rather than have it portioned out to them by an owner.
"It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us FREE. Stand firm, then, and do no let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)