“Most people like to think of themselves as alert and aware. But under the right circumstances, even the most observant people can be blind to what’s going on around them.”
With those words CBS commenced a report entitled, “What You See Depends On What You Look For.” The report focused on research conducted by a team of Harvard psychologists on the issue of what is called “inattentional blindness.” Now that is just some big words that mean that people really can miss things, even BIG things that happen right before their eyes.
The way in which they studied this phenomenon was to have people sit and watch a videotape with the instructions to count the number of times people in white shirts passed a ball. At the end of the videotape they were asked if they noticed anything unusual, and over 50% of the people did not notice a person in a gorilla suit walking through the display, through the players, and out the other side, even if it stopped and thumped its chest.
The point of the exercise is to demonstrate that if you are not expecting to see something, you might well miss it. Also, it goes to show that it is quite possible for us to miss seeing something important even though it might be right before our eyes, but our minds are focused on something else.
The application I would like to make this morning is how very easy it is for us to miss some of the really BIG issues of the Christian life. Not because we are unconcerned about them, but because our focus and attention is elsewhere. And so the question I want each of us to answer is this, “Did you see the gorilla?”
And the gorilla I’m talking about has become known as The Great Commission. It was Jesus’ charge to His disciples, and to us today, to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that He has commanded.
If we want to see the church succeed, and we want to see those outside of Christ come to a saving relationship with God, then we need to take seriously the task at hand. It can be easy to go through life focused on our careers, our families, our hobbies, even our own personal relationship with God. But how often do we stop and take notice of the gorilla? Church attendance is declining, and not just in our church, this is a universal problem. Yet it seems the answer is simple, go out and make more disciples, right? So why is it that so few Christians are fulfilling this Great Commission?
I know that by now you may be getting tired of hearing it, but why is it that we have this special day that we build up to (Back To Church Sunday), and we only manage to get three visitors? And why do we need to make a special day out of it to begin with? Jesus simply said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” I sure hope you see the gorilla?
What could we do to better live the kind of lives that God would have us to live? Back in 2000, a movie titled Pay It Forward hit the theaters. In the movie, when eleven and a half year old Trevor McKinney begins seventh grade in Las Vegas, Nevada, his social studies teacher Eugene Simonet gives the class an assignment to devise and put into action a plan that will change the world for the better. And as Christians, isn’t that what we are trying to do? Anyway, Trevor’s plan is a charitable program based on the networking of good deeds. He calls his plan “Pay It Forward,” which means the recipient of a favor does a favor for three others rather than paying the favor back.
Trevor’s school assignment marks the beginning of the story’s chronology, but the opening scene in the film shows one of the later favors in the “Pay It Forward” tree, in which a man gives a car to Los Angels journalist Chris Chandler. As the film proceeds, Chandler traces the chain of favors back to its origin as Trevor’s school project. And after a long list of favors, Chandler finally identifies Trevor as the originator of “Pay It Forward” and conducts a recorded interview in which Trevor describes his hopes and concerns for the project.
As the movie comes to an end, Trevor notices his friend Adam being bullied by some older kids, and decides to “Pay It Forward” to Adam by rushing into the scene and trying to fight the bullies off. But one of the bullies takes a knife out of his pocket, and Trevor is then accidentally pushed into the knife and is stabbed in the abdomen. Trevor consequently dies at the hospital. This news is reported on television nationwide. And soon, Trevor’s mom and the teacher are visited by hundreds of people who have participated in the “Pay It Forward” movement. In a scene echoing the finale of Field Of Dreams, these people, all bearing candles and/or flowers, gather in a vigil to pay Trevor their respects. Hundreds more approach the McKinney house, their headlights stretching up the main highway as far as the eye can see.
But here’s the thing, Trevor wasn’t the first to think of this “Pay It Forward” movement. He was about two thousand years too late. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Want to talk about “Paying It Forward!” Romans 5:8 tells us that, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So…, as we head into the holiday season, perform a few acts of kindness yourself. Because of what God has done for you, it’s time that you “Pay It Forward!”