Someone was recently commenting on a television series they had been watching. They were disappointed in the season ending and said, “Thanks a lot; after all the emotional investment I made in the characters and story, this is how it ended. ” We’ve probably all been frustrated with a TV show when they’ve killed off a character or surprised us with “to be continued” at the end of an episode. Or, to the contrary, we get so attached to a show that we don’t want to miss an installment, we discuss it with others or become inspired by it. Who did not pretend to be Superman or Wonder Woman or the Lone Ranger when they were little?
But here’s the question: How can we become so moved by fiction, something that is not even real? Answer: As noted above, we become emotionally invested in the story and characters. Though fictional, we have identified with them on some level and have become “wrapped up” in them. This shows the power of human emotions. These emotions can be tapped into by forces that seek to manipulate us, or they can drain us of precious time and mental focus.
We choose what we will be emotionally invested in, and that investment can be very powerful. Last week it was noted that Bill Buckner died. If you are not a baseball fan, Buckner was a talented player who became infamous for one major blunder in the 1986 World Series: a ground ball bounced between his legs in the 10th inning of Game 6, keeping the NY Mets alive in the Series. They won it all in Game 7.
But here’s the kicker: the Boston Red Sox fans were so emotionally invested in their team that they hated Buckner for his mishap. Things got so bad that he had to move his family out west to escape the vitriol, hate mail and death threats. Buckner never lived down his error, partially due to TV news and documentaries which replayed the clip thousands of times.
So, what have you chosen to be emotionally invested in?
Are you emotionally invested in Jesus Christ? Over and over last weekend we heard pleas to honor “those who gave it all” on Memorial Day. There is a lot of emotional investment in the military, the fallen heroes, the Gold Star families, cemeteries, memorials, etc. – all well deserved. But each child of God must make a choice to establish and retain emotional investment in Christ who has done far more for the world than war veterans.
By “emotional” I do not mean emotionalism. But we are emotional creatures, and while the basis of our relationship with Christ is belief, trust, devotion and obedience, it is not to be robotic or ritualistic. Jesus is a divine person who took on our fleshly nature and died for us. That is more than a set of facts; that is love, grace, sacrifice and service that cannot be dispassionately ignored. To be emotionally invested in Christ is to think about Him, study Him, emulate Him and long for that moment in eternity when we will see Him face to face.
Are you emotionally invested in the local church? While our knee-jerk reaction to this question might be, “Of course I am! I’ve been a member here since _________,” the real test might be in how others would answer that question for us. Is our investment evident in the fruit of our lives? Paul was not only emotionally invested in the congregation where he happened to be, he had “deep concern for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:28). He rhetorically asked, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?” (11:29).
Do you know your fellow members and are you able to converse with them? Do you ever call or email anyone? Are you on time to worship or chronically late? Are you financially engaged in the church’s work? Does your body language suggest you are happy to be worshiping the Lord? Do you come to class prepared to learn and possibly add to the discussion? Do you let the elders know – as they have requested – when you will be absent from the assembly? Do you find it easy to miss services? Do you verbally support those who present lessons, lead the singing, lead prayers, etc.? Do you leave quickly after services because of discomfort in dealing with fellow Christians? Do you volunteer to do anything? These are just some of the questions we might ask ourselves as we seek to evaluate our emotional investment in the Centreville church.
Are you emotionally invested in the lost? While we might be wrapped up in our TV drama, there is a real drama being played out around us every day. We are surrounded by people living miserable, empty lives. They are morally adrift, intellectually confused, materialistic, narcissistic and overwhelmed by a world that doesn’t really care about them. It is easy to dismiss the lost as those who are suffering the fate of their own decisions, but we are called upon to show compassion, be a light, share the truth and warn of the judgment to come.
It is hard to invest in others when they are oblivious to their own spiritual condition and hostile to our efforts to guide and motivate them spiritually. Our tendency is to pull back and protect ourselves, but genuine love for the lost will resist this. We must remain grounded and confident and our priorities must be clear so as not to be easily put off. In TV drama, all we can do is watch a story line unfold; we are totally passive. In real life, we can make a difference in someone’s eternal destiny. We can help someone change their story from tragedy to triumph.
Are you emotionally invested in your own salvation? People do religious things for all kinds of reasons besides genuine faith toward God. And life, especially in our area, is draining and demanding (which might be a major reason we get lost in our TV dramas, movies and sports). But we must take our own salvation seriously: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13).
It is easy to let God and our faith slide down the priority list. Life will take over if we let it. But we are to be deliberate, self-aware, alert and dedicated to preserving our faith and nurturing it day by day. Is God getting your best or the leftovers? Do you have an energy and enthusiasm for God’s people? You are the central character in your drama, and you have a hand in writing the script. Are you excited for the next episode? Are you inspired by the supporting cast around you? How does your story end?