"Bubble-wrapped people." Sounds a little weird, doesn't it?
It certainly did to me, though bubble-wrap is not a new idea. We all know "bubble wrap," a plastic packing material with small air "pillows" in it. It's used to surround some object to isolate it from what's around it and protect it.
But people? Did you ever think of bubble-wrapped people? Probably not, though they're not uncommon, walking through life securely protected from the evil and pain in the world. I think to an extent, at least in western culture, most people live with some degree of insulation protecting them from whatever they perceive as a threat.
But being insulated is not a good thing. It diminishes our lives. The thicker our insulation, the smaller our world. As we are protected from hurting, we are also prevented from loving. As we avoid pain, we are deprived of passion. We become cardboard people, all surface and no depth.
But we don't hurt. At least we think we don't hurt. We quickly become oblivious to the dull ache of emptiness in us. In fact, we are "protected" from living rich lives as fully human beings, as people who reflect the image of their creator. We become emotionally hollow and dead.
These lives are neither deeply satisfying nor do they honor our God.
But there's another aspect of this bubble-wrap problem, perhaps related.
God made us for a purpose. It wasn't like he was sitting around on a slow Friday afternoon, too early to shut down and go home, and he had a little stuff left over from his week of creating. "Hmm... I've got another 5 minutes before quitting time, so I think I'll throw this stuff together and see what I can make from it." And there we were.
God is a God of purpose, and he made us for a purpose. A glance at the first couple chapters of Genesis will show that. The initial purpose (never rescinded) was to care for the earth (1:28). But then Jesus added something new and important. Most of the people on this earth didn't and don't know God or anything about him. Jesus came to remedy that, but understood that he was one person living in one small area for a few short years, and that more needed to be done. Much more.
So he called us, the people who would come to know and follow him. And he gave us an instruction above what was given in Genesis: Make disciples. Teach people how to know and follow Jesus, and carry on the purpose that brought him here (Matthew 28:19; John 20:21-23; II Corinthians 5:20).
But there's a problem. Many of us who claim to follow Jesus are bubble-wrapped. We have lives carefully protected from the nasty, evil world. We live in a world populated by people who believe as we do and have little contact with others. Many of us don't even know someone who isn't a "Christian." Our friends all look like us.
There are two main problems with such a life. First, it's just boring. It's self-centered, and it creates a world where everyone is alike.
I am amazed at the difference in my life since I moved into a neighborhood and church that is intensely multicultural. My world now looks a lot more like the kingdom of God. And I have opportunities to bring God's grace into the lives of those who don't know about him. Like the Buddhist friend from Burma who has asked me to fix his computer this afternoon.
Second, an insulated life for a Christian is wrong. It flatly disobeys the command of Jesus to make disciples, and generally is unconcerned about it. We can't make disciples of people we don't know.
I was one of those people for years, and didn't even know it. I lived in white, middle class neighborhoods, attended white, middle class churches, and even worked in places that were fundamentally white, middle class, and "Christian."
Then I was somehow drawn to live in the city and join an urban church. This was no small matter for a country boy from Colorado. But I followed the pull, and was amazed at what I found. There was a world I didn't know existed. People far different from me who also call themselves Christians. And people far different from me who bring unexpected blessing and richness into my life.
But first, I had to be willing to pop the bubbles.