Remembering Castanza

April 26, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

You remember George Castanza, right? Jerry Seinfeld’s neurotic friend. I think about George a lot– mainly because he is a wonderful character who constantly gets into all kinds of trouble.

One of the things I remember about George, is the time he discovered that everything he always did was wrong. Any time he made a choice, he chose wrong. Remember that? So George, with his unique reasoning, hit upon an incredible idea. He decided that in every situation he would figure out what he thought he should do and then just do the opposite.

Instead of trying to impress a girl with suave behavior and classy clothes, he did the opposite. He was coarse and unshaven, blunt and honest about his shortcomings. And in the show, the girl is impressed. In other words, when George does the opposite things start working for him.

Well, I think George is on to something… And I’ve found myself resonating with the philosophy of doing the opposite. I’m not talking about being mean when I should be nice or wearing a bathing suit to a wedding. Actually, I’m talking about my relationship to Jesus. Sounds like quite a leap, huh? George Castanza to Jesus?!?

I think not. If you really think about what Jesus said when he was teaching his followers, much of it seems like he’s saying do the opposite. Want an example? How about the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus begins his opposite theology by combining things we don’t think fit together at all…

Matthew 5:3-10

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[4] Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

[5] Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

[6] Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

[7] Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

[8] Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

[9] Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.

[10] Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

He continues to say more opposite sounding things like: if someone hits you on the right check, turn and offer the other… If someone wants to take your shirt, give him your jacket as well… If you want to live, you have to die.

These seem a little strange to us. Almost unbelievable… But I think that’s because much of God’s truth is opposite to the world’s. Much of God’s truth is seen as foolishness. We don’t like to be seen as “foolish”– in fact we work very hard not to be.

Some of you are probably nodding your head right now. You agree. The world’s truth is at odds with God’s truth. Amen brother! (Boo world; yea God!) But here’s the problem: my truth is too often the same as the world’s truth. Even though I’m a Christian, I still have a warped sense of truth because I live in this world. The first step to really grasping God’s truth is recognizing the fact that I am often blinded by my truth.

See, the most challenging opposite for me to really, truly, whole-heartedly grasp is that I CAN TRUST GOD IN AND FOR EVERYTHING… THAT HE REALLY DOES LOVE ME AND WILL TAKE CARE OF ME… THAT I DON’T NEED TO PERFORM FOR HIS APPROVAL… I’M NOT MEASURED BY WHAT I DO… THAT HE WILL–REALLY–WORK OUT ALL THINGS FOR MY GOOD… THAT MY EFFORTS IN MY POWER ARE WORTH NOTHING… THAT JESUS DIED FOR MY SINS… THAT I AM FORGIVEN… THAT MY SINS ARE PAID FOR AND THERE’S NOTHING MORE I NEED TO DO TO MAKE MYSELF MORE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD…

So I have been thinking about George a lot lately… And I’ve caught myself often heading down a path of self-effort or self-righteousness or self-aggrandizement or self-sufficiency only to think I’m going to try to do the opposite here– I’m going to take God at his Word and believe that he will handle it instead of relying on myself.

It’s not as easy as it might seem. I’ve been orchestrating and posturing a long time (and I’m pretty darn good at it)– but God is a wonderfully gentle teacher. And he is faithful. And he likes me… And I’m finding that I’m thinking about him a lot more these days; and I’m experiencing joy and peace, and laughter a lot more; and things don’t seem as overwhelming; and God is more of a reality.

Thanks George… Who would have thunk you could provide a spiritual lesson?!?

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