Thursday, November 02, 2006

God Still Uses Donkeys To Get Our Attention

Core Thought: Donkey's Lesson Number One - Real Friends Tell Us The Truth and Stick with Us!

God still uses donkeys to get our attention! In Numbers 21, we read how God used Balaam's donkey to get his attention by giving the donkey a voice and a message. Now, I may be treading on thin ice even saying this, and I am not equating the two, but Donkey in the motion picture Shrek is a powerful communicator, too.

It's easy to overlook the impact Donkey on Shrek because he is so entertaining, but if you look past that, you'll see in Donkey, a lot to learn about impacting others for good. Donkey ranks up there as one of my favorite movie characters (one day I'll blog about my all time favorite!), and NOT just because he is so funny.

Donkey becomes a phenomenal force in the transformation of Shrek, a lonely, angry, frustrated, isolated, misunderstood ogre incable (it seems!) of true love, into everyone's hero who finds true love (when he had been hopeless) and lives happily ever after (Well, at least until Shrek 2)!

From the beginning of their friendship, Shrek tries to get rid of Donkey, who is determined to forge a relationship with the ogre, because, as Donkey sings, "You gotta have friends!"

No matter how rude or scary Shrek tries to be, Donkey is in the relationship for the long haul. As you watch the story unfold... you see that Donkey's connection to Shrek is not a selfish one. No, it is born out of an initial act of salvation. Shrek scares off Donkey's would-be captors (not to help Donkey, mind you...just for the sheer pleasure of scaring people!), and Donkey is from that moment on...connected! Why?

Gratitude! Shrek even tells him upon their first meeting, when he is trying to brush this new irritant off, "why don't you go and celebrate your freedom with your own friends?"

I like that phrase, "celebrate your freedom." Isn't that how anyone who has been freed should look at life? From the start, Donkey is an expert in celebration, and eager to use his new found freedom to forge a friendship with his liberator, Shrek.

And this relationship is not easy, but it is worthwhile. When Shrek decides to go and confront the evil Lord Farquad, it is Donkey who excited exclaims in front of the crowd of displaced fairy tale creatures, "Pick me! Pick me!" Christian should be so eager to follow Christ on His adventure called life....

As I said, significant relationships are not always smooth or easy. Near the end of the movie, through a major misunderstanding, Shrek retreats to his isolation and anger, and lashes out at Donkey. Donkey, however, refuses to end the friendship and goes to confront Shrek....why? "Because" Donkey exclaims, "Friends forgive each other!"

Finally Shrek wakes up...and, with his restored friend, Donkey, go to rescue Fiona from evil (and short) Lord Farquad! What a great friend to have...someone like that irritating little donkey named, "Donkey!" Someone who takes all of us, good and bad, and is committed to our best interest.

Donkey could have called it quits and said it wasn't worth it, but he didn't because he knew that Shrek needed a new life, a better life, and Donkey was committed to do whatever it took to make it happen. Friendship can mean hard work some time (any deep relationship does!), but it is worth it! Still, Donkey has another lesson for anyone willing to look deeper than the laughs...

Core Thought #2: Donkey knows a little something about witnessing using "rabbinic questioning!" Could there be a better way to share our faith?

A couple of days ago, I heard a message in which the preacher brought out Jesus' witnessing style. He brought to our attention the fact that Jesus did NOT debate about the merits of his "religion" as opposed to other religions. Interestingly enough, when he did attack religion, it was usually aimed at his own religion...Judaism...and then only with regards to the hypocrisy of certain leaders, or with people abusing that particular religious system (like the money lenders).

You don't see Him making the paganism of the Romans a target of attack. He came to announce the good news of the coming of God's kingdom, not to establish just another world religion. He did not come to debate and win arguments; he came to reveal God's love and salvation and purposes.

Basically he told his followers to learn from him, to demonstrate what kingdom living was in daily life (i.e. a life of love for God and one's fellow man, including enemies), and to be willing to give an explanation for their lifestyles of love.

He didn't get sidetracked into the issues of the day. As a matter of fact, he didn't promote religion at all, but relationships...with Him, the Father and with each other. For Christ, Christianity was no religion at all, but the reality of who He was and who we are.

This is not to say He didn't upset people, because He did, but not by debating them, but by living a life that revealed hypocrisy and the dangers of empty, ritual-only religion. No wonder so many of the religious leaders of the day turned on Him.

Others, however, were drawn to this new kind of life. And Jesus responded to many of these seekers with a witnessing "style" we would be wise to learn and practice. Jesus, who was not only God incarnate, but also a Jewish rabbi, employed an amazing tool in reaching out to those drawn to Him. That tool is called....are you ready....asking questions!

In his book, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, Randy Newman spotlights this simple, yet powerful way of engaging people in meaningful dialogue. He cites several examples of Jesus' method of engaging people versus just preaching "at" them.

  1. A rich man asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" That question was a great set up for a clear, concise gospel presentation. I can almost hear a disciple whispering in Jesus' ear, "Take out the tract." But how did Jesus respond? He posed a question, "Why do you call me good?" (Mark 10:17-18).
  2. When religious leaders asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes, Jesus referred to a coin and asked, "Whose portrait is this?" (Matt. 22:17-20).
  3. When the Pharisees asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" Jesus' response was a question: "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?" (Matt. 12:9-12).

This isn't to say Jesus never preached, but when he was one on one, often he used questions to get whoever he was talking to to think. Wait a minute...I almost forgot Donkey, didn't I?

As he and Shrek are learning to tolerate each other; they have an important and revealing confrontation under the stars after Fiona has retired for the evening in the cave. Donkey, ever the analyst starts "the process."

DONKEY: (heaves a big sigh) Hey, Shrek, what we gonna do when we get our swamp anyway?

SHREK Our swamp?

DONKEY You know, when we're through rescuing the princess.

SHREK We? Donkey, there's no "we". There's no "our". There's just me and my swamp. The first thing I'm gonna do is build a ten-foot wall around my land.

DONKEY You cut me deep, Shrek. You cut me real deep just now. You know what I think? I think this whole wall thing is just a way to keep somebody out.

SHREK No, do ya think?

DONKEY Are you hidin' something?- SHREK Never mind, Donkey.

DONKEY Oh, this is another one of those onion things, isn't it?- SHREK No, this is one of those drop-it and leave-it alone things.

DONKEY Why don't you want to talk about it? - SHREK Why do you want to talk about it?

DONKEY Why are you blocking? - SHREK I'm not blocking.

DONKEY Oh, yes, you are. - SHREK Donkey, I'm warning you.

DONKEY Who you trying to keep out? - SHREK Everyone! Okay?

DONKEY (pause) Oh, now we're gettin' somewhere. (grins)

Okay, so Donkey isn't that smooth or embracing, but he is motivated by the desire to help his friend, and he does this by finding out who Shrek is. Do we want to know people? Do we want to engage them as Christ did? I hope so. As God gives you opportunities to share the good news of your life with Him, relax, and find out who you are talking with. If Christ took the time to engage people with questions of true concern and compassion, shouldn't we?

If you want to find out more about the power of rabbinic questioning as a way of communicating the good news, check out:

If Donkey can help an ogre named Shrek by being committed, compassionate, and willing to ask questions, can't we?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I came to comment on your extremely long post(because you told me to)! You should know who this is!