If you lived in a bubble, you could filter out all the stuff around you. You could control what you exposed yourself to, and you could stay safe and secure. If you fell down, you would just bounce back up. If someone tried to touch you, they couldn’t get through your bubble. It would feel warm and cozy, and everything would be alright. Right? Wrong.
The problem with living in a sanitized bubble is that the body needs a certain amount of exposure to germs and toxins to build up a resistance to them. Limited exposure to things that can harm us makes us healthier while avoidance of harmful things may actually make us unhealthy. This is the basic principle behind modern vaccines.
Some Christians want to be bubble people. We listen to bubble music, and watch bubble movies. We hang out with other bubble people in approved bubble places. We are pretty sure that if our kids stay in the bubble, no harm can come to them. One day we will release them from our bubble, and send them off to make bubbles of their own. Hopefully, they’ll pick the right bubble college, but at the least, we hope our efforts will prepare them for the challenges of the non-bubble world.
Of course, keeping ourselves in the bubble doesn’t actually help us ultimately live in the non-bubble world. Many a young bubble person leaves the bubble nest for the first time and suddenly encounters honest to goodness non-bubble people with non-bubble ideas, and they get lost and confused. Isolation is not ultimately healthy. Of course, we could correct this by teaching our bubble children the ways of the non-bubble world. We could tell them all about the evils out there, but the truth is, we would probably only accomplish teaching our bubble children to be distrustful of non-bubble people, and make them quite proud of their in-the-bubble status. They will miss the fact that non-bubble people are not the real enemy, and in this we will fail to love and serve in the sacrificial way of Jesus.
I exist in a bubble. Nearly everyone I come into contact with is a Christian. I live next door to where I serve. I walk to work by stepping out of my back gate. My bubble consists of one block of one small town. I work with Christian volunteers doing Christian ministry. I pray with Christians, visit Christians, and answer Christian’s questions. Some people think this bubble is a good thing. Maybe some think pastors have it easy because we mostly work with Christians, but as any pastor can tell you, working with Christians ain’t always a picnic, and I am a less healthy Christian in some ways because of my bubble.
I didn’t always exist in a bubble. Once upon a time, I had a “normal” job with plenty of good, average non-bubble people. I worked around everyday people with everyday lives, and everyday questions. You know something? That life was good for me, but it is different living in the bubble. Bubble people like to hide the fact that our bubbles have leaks, because we confuse being sanitized with being healthy, and the illusion of control gives us security. In the non-bubble world, honesty and sincerity are necessities for the Christian. Non-bubble people smell a fraud a mile away. As a guy at the bottom of the workplace ladder with no desire to climb higher, I was nobody, and people trusted the nobody because I was not a threat. Our conversations about life and spiritual matters were honest, and I haven’t had those kind of conversations in the eight years since I’ve become a religious professional. In the minds of non-bubble people, I now represent the bubble, and all that it stands for.
In the last few days I’ve had some interactions with some atheists, and these people reminded me just how isolated my world is. I am a better Christian when forced to talk about my faith in a real and honest way. I need non-Christians in my life, and so do you. The Christian life needs to be lived out there. Be glad for those non-bubble people in your life. They keep you honest. They challenge you. They keep you humble. They keep you looking to Jesus, and with your eyes squarely on Him, they can make you healthier. Life in the bubble is sanitized and inoffensive, but it isolates us, and makes us ineffective in serving Jesus in a meaningful way because the bubble not only keeps others out, it keeps us in.