There is an old story about a man that would take bets on his two dogs. For sport and even more for the money, he would have the two fight every night. He always picked the winner. After watching this play out multiple times, an observer asked the man, “How do you always know which dog will win?” The man replied, “That is easy. The one I feed.” We will get back to that in a moment. Let me ask you a question, and please answer honestly. Not necessarily out loud, especially if you are currently reading this in a doctor’s office or coffee shop. Who or what primarily shapes and influences your values, your thoughts, your actions and your goals in life? And don’t only be honest, but please be brutally so. After all, this is an internal dialogue (unless you ignore my advice, above.) Before you say, “the church, the Bible, Jesus, etc.”, think long and hard because I will tell you, I am cynical if that is your response. Why? According to the most recent Pew study, 65 percent of us claim to be Christian. That is a significant drop from a few years before, but still, that is a sizable proportion of our population. If Jesus truly is the primary shaper of our culture, then why do we have the amount of crime, the high rate of divorce, rapant pornography, poverty, abuse of all kinds, injustice, racial tension, political hostility and on and on?
Look at it this way. What if we lived in a neighborhood with 100 people and 65 of them were committed to following the way of Jesus? Specifically, if they truly lived out Jesus’ two most important commands—to love God and love their neighbors as themselves? What kind of community do we expect to find in this “hood? Probably not what we find in our country as a whole, would be my guess.
If 65 percent of our country were really trying to live out a Jesus-shaped life, we wouldn’t be in the proverbial pickle that we are in now. So where is the disconnect? The ulgy truth is that we are feeding the wrong dog. The average American (including Christians) spends around eleven hours on media every day. Compare this to an average Christian who spends at most (and this is being generous) one hour a week reading their Bible. Some Jesus followers never pick up their Bibles at all. So, who really speaks the loudest and most in a Christian’s life? Our favorite YouTuber, Tick Tocker or cable news commentator, but certainly not Christ.
The church planter Paul wrote to the struggling church in Rome, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” ~ Romans 12:2 NIV.
The problem is, if we are a professed Jesus follower, we are conforming to the patterns of this world. We are being discipled (taught/formed) for certain…but not by Jesus. We are feeding the wrong dog, and our communities, our country and our world are paying the price.
So, what if in 2022 we do something radical, crazy, utterly rebellious and counter-cultural? What if we reduce the amount of media we take in daily and increase the amount of time we spend in not only reading Scripture but being open to the presence of God? What if we allowed Jesus to truly be our teacher to help shape our values, our decisions, the way we spend our money, the way we think about and treat our neighbors (even those who vote differently than us, Heaven Forbid!) What might happen in Forsyth County if we Christians actually began to act like Christ? What if 2022 is the year we decide to feed the right dog?