Last Thursday I saw mummies.
Not the little plastic ones that are starting to show up in everyone’s yard because Halloween is around the corner, no, these were real, live mummies. They were life-size, danced around and played brass instruments.
Let me give you the back story.
I got tricked into going to Nashville last Thursday night. Well, tricked may be a harsh word, but it was definitely not in my plans. The plan was to see a Predators game (which never happened). Instead, we found ourselves roaming the streets of downtown Nashville looking for something to do that did not involve shameless acts of indiscretion.
After leaving a restaurant on Second Avenue, we heard loud groaning coming from City Hall. As we turned our gaze toward the monstrous noises, we noticed the large crowd gathering at the top of the hill. With large tents and booths set up and spotlights shining up into the clouds, it was obviously some form of concert. The curiosity got the best of us and we headed up the hill to see what band was making those strange noises.
When we topped that hill, we found a sea of spectators. This was no small concert. There were thousands of people crowded on to the lawn of City Hall, staring up toward the stage. And that is when we noticed the stage.
The band was mummies.
Eight mummies were dancing around on the stage, wielding guitars, drum kits, microphones, and an assortment of brass instruments. What is more, they were playing disco.
Now I have seen some weird concerts, but this one took the cake.
With the same morbid curiosity that causes people to slow down at car accidents, we took our place amongst the crowd, somewhere between the guy juggling fire and the lady dressed as a dead person in a shower. Before long, someone in the crowd informed us of the purpose behind the band’s strange outfits. Apparently, they were all famous.
Each of the men on stage were supposedly celebrities in their own right. They all had record labels and contracts, some were rumored to be Grammy winners. Yet in order to play the music they wanted to play, instead of being roped down by the legal issues of their contracts and the scrutiny of fans who critiqued their music, they chose to hide their identities.
They chose to become mummies so they could play disco music.
Not to sound too weird, but that is an exceptional visual portrayal of the clash of identities many Christians face. Better yet, it is a portrayal of a dangerous line of thinking presented in Christian culture today.
Let me explain. The Bible is steeped with language describing the change that occurs once a believer steps into the Christian life in faith. Paul tells us we are new creations. He urges us in Colossians to put to death the old and to put on the new self. We are told we are in the world but not of the world. We are people with a new identity.
However, this is where I feel many live in error. Instead of putting the old man to death, instead of being a new creation, we can become mummies, so to speak. Depending on who we are around, we wrap ourselves up in a facade.
It is easiest to see in youth, but I do not think they are more guilty than adults. I think adults are simply more subtle.
A kid struggles with his identity as a Christian. Perhaps he genuinely wants to be this new person he has heard about at church. He knows the necessity of sharing Christ and his responsibility to live a life of witness. But, where his identity is known, he is pressured to hang on to his worldly life.
This results in a kid who, when at church, wraps himself up in the garb of Christianity, but does not wear it at other times. It produces someone who is willing to share Christ, as long as it is on a mission trip or in another state. They can be a witness while building some stranger’s house, far removed from the pressures of their identity. However, to be this new person they want to be, they must hide their old self.
Because they are hanging on to that old self. They maintain that old persona when back at home, around the people that know them best. Maybe it is simply the pressure to fit in. Perhaps it is a feeling they cannot overcome mistakes made in the past. Whatever the case, they do not actually become a new person, they just assume the identity of one when the pressure is off.
But a true Christian is not merely the old person wrapped up in a new facade.
This is a dangerous road to travel. When someone assumes two identities, before long, it is impossible to tell which one is real. Are they the old man, or the new man? Is the kid in our example the well-intentioned young man who wants to share Jesus, or is he really the kid who is too ashamed of Jesus to identify with him at school? There is no way of knowing.
This is why Jesus tells us we must forsake everything. We must deny ourselves and take up his cross. We must be willing to sacrifice that old man on the cross just like Christ. As Paul put it, we are to become living sacrifices.
The old man must die, or we cannot be the new man. We just become mummies.