Friday, August 18, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

"In my name, you will pick up snakes in your own hands and drink deadly poison, and none of that will hurt you." Mark 16:18

Even in the midst of snakes, there are no excuses.

Snakes? Well, Biblically-speaking, one of the most common animals in the Scriptures is the snake. Beginning with the Garden of Eden where the snake was "the most cunning of all the animals God had created" (Gen. 3:1) and continuing through Revelation where John saw in his vision "the ancient serpent which is the devil" (Rev. 20:2).

Snakes are everywhere.

Moses turned his staff into a snake (Exodus 4), then turned one into bronze in the desert to help heal the Israelites' snakebites (Numbers 21); Isaiah prophesized about the day of the Lord when children will play in the snake's den (Isaiah 11), and other prophets (Micah, Jeremiah) spoke of God's punishment in the form of serpents. Jesus gave his disciples the power to pick up snakes with their bare hands (Mark 16, Luke 10), which is literally fulfilled when Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake but feels no pain (Acts 28).

Snakes are everywhere. And now they've made their way from the pages of the Bible to the overhead compartments of our airplanes.

Snakes on a Plane, one of the most anticipated films this summer, is the story of a brave FBI agent (Samuel L. Jackson) who confidently leads a planeful of passangers in a test of survival when a crate of snakes are let loose on a red-eye flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles.

From the Scriptures to this action-packed movie, snakes continue to represent our deepest fears and the most dangerous situations imaginable. To be trapped in a pressurized cabin thousands of feet in the air over an endless ocean in the middle of the night with hundreds and hundreds of poisonous, charged up, hungry snakes? Talk about the epitome of fear and danger!

So in the face of danger and when we are paralyzed by fear, are we allowed to simply go into survival mode or are we still called and challenged to live the Gospel values?

In the movie, we see images of self-sacrafice in the face of deadly snakes, the same self-sacrfice Christ calls us all to: a flight attendent walks into a nest of snakes to save a baby; a passanger throws a woman on his back to save her from snakes in the aisle. Even our hero, Samuel L. Jackson, risks his own life in the underbelly of the plane so that he can turn on the air conditioning, without which the passengers will suffocate or die from heat exhaustion. Some of these brave people survive, some don't... but acts of heroism, sacrifice, and selflessness abound in all this slithery turmoil.

On the other hand, there are those who go into survival mode and care more about themselves than others. Snakes on a Plane is clear about what the fate awaits these people: some of the film's most grusome serpantine encounters are care of these selfish individuals.

Our own world may not be riddled with snakes in confined aircraft, but more often than not, even the smallest amount of trouble, fear, and anxiety tempts us to put our core gospel values (compassion, understanding, justice, selflessness, sacrifice, heroism, leadership, love, service, generosity, etc.) on hold until "things clear up."

But Christ constantly challenges us to rise above that spiritual laziness and procrastination... and start acting like Samuel L. Jackson in a pit of vipers.

From the everyday troubles we face to the improbable scenario of snakes on a plane, we don't have any excuse to avoid living to the highest standards and to being the best we can be.

Having a horrible day? Is life too busy? Worried and anxious? Got your own problems? Caught up in your own troubles? Sure, but do we use these as endless excuses to avoid living as Christ did? I know I fall into this trap from time to time.

But when I hear Jesus in the Gospel of Mark saying, "In my name, you will pick up snakes in your hands and drink deadly poison, and none of that will hurt you." (Mark 16:18), I hear him telling me that nothing, not even snakes on a plane, should come between me and the core gospel values that God has given to me.

There are simply no excuses, even in the midst of the worst fear and danger, to do the right thing, to love one another, and to transform the world through action and renewal.