Do you play "tag?" I like playing “Tag” with my MOM, it’s fun fun. The worst thing that could happen to you when you are playing "tag," is to be touched and declared ... "Tag! You’re it!" Once you are "tagged" you are the odd one out. Once you are tagged you are the enemy, the outcast, the outlier, and you work hard to get that moniker off your back by giving it to someone else.
How times have changed. Now to be "tagged" is to be one of the elect: to be included, to be part of a movement, to be involved in something larger and more important than your own email register or blog comments. To get "tagged" is to be drawn into a new community with distinctive concerns and a unique consciousness. To be "tagged" means that you have been chosen to participate in a larger experience of life.
Romans 13:8-14 is all about being "tagged." We are totally "tagged" by a divine challenge. Christians are not defined by their ability to dump icy water over their heads. Christians are known by their ability to dump love over all those they bump into. When you are "tagged" by Christ’s love, you are called to "tag" all those you can with that same amazing, transforming, overwhelming love. Timing is everything. Can you imagine the "IceBucket Challenge" in December?
It took a good, hot summer to make the "Ice Bucket Challenge" a "viral" phenomena. Sure, a few Viking souls will jump into freezing water when the air temperature is below freezing, like my buddy Bert. Bert has been doing the icebucket, frozen river and lake challenge his whole life. But it’s way more likely that people will volunteer to take a cold bath when it is July or August and the temperatures are hovering around 90, not 9.
Before the "Ice Bucket Challenge," only about one quarter of US citizens even knew that ALS existed. Before this past summer those who knew about this disease mostly knew of it as "Lou Gehrig’s Disease," named after the famous baseball player who publically admitted to having the disease in 1939.
Seventy five years later a diagnosis of ALS still means an average life expectancy of three to five years. Unlike cancer, heart disease, AIDS, diabetes, ALS has not received a lot of funding for research, and there has been a very low public awareness of the disease. Until the summer of 2014.
Now all of sudden, thanks to the "Ice Bucket Challenge," new generations have not only been informed but also summoned to join in the fight against ALS. Kids and college students, socialites and celebrities, Bill Gates and Martha Stewart, Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey, Triple H, Kermit the Frog and George W. Bush and The Potty Rocker — all have been online "tagged," digitally "dared," to participate in the "Ice Bucket Challenge."
If you don’t know the "challenge" is threefold: 1) to be doused on camera to raise awareness of the disease; 2) to give a donation to the cause of curing ALS; 3) and to call out others family, friends, unknown entities to join with you in this experience.
Maybe it’s time for an end of summer evaluation of the "Ice Bucket Challenge." Yes, it has made a huge mental mark, especially in our kids’ awareness of a dreadful, debilitating, deadly disease. The "Challenge" has highlighted the need to funnel money and brainpower towards finding new treatments and an eventual cure for this horrific disease. How ironic that ice water has made a "cold case" disease into a "hot topic". That is tremendous. But the phenomenal success of the "Ice Bucket Challenge" also tells us something about the world we live in today.
Learning is becoming more and more EPIC E- Experiential, P-Participatory, I- Image-Rich, C- Connective (EPIC). Notice who were the most enthusiastic participants in the "Ice Bucket Challenge:" young people. Before they took the challenge, many researched the disease themselves, learning the medical fundamentals while experiencing social media fun. Most of them had never heard of "Lou Gehrig" before being tagged. The "IceBucket Challenge" was a non-classroom based, peer to peer, largely online learning experience.
The "Ice Bucket Challenge" has its own doctrine of moral depravity and sin. To undergo the ritual and not give, or not evangelize (tag), is called "slactivism." In contrast to "activism," where you participate in doing good by exerting effort and investing time, "slactivists" give only token support by "liking" something on Facebook, sharing a video, or getting wet, thereby feeling good about doing something but without doing anything to actually improve the problem.
The "P" in EPIC, personal participation, was in large caps in the "Ice Bucket Challenge." In fact, the ritual of being doused with cold water became a kind of "baptismal rite" for initiation into ALS awareness. The "Ice Bucket Challenge" showed all those who were invited, enticed, or introduced to the world of ALS that they were not just being offered information about a disease — they were being offered a lifetime membership in a crusade against a terrible foe. By participating in the "Ice Bucket Challenge," thousands have been publically "baptized" into a "community" with a cause. All icebucket baptized will carry with them a lifelong investment in the cause and cure of the curse of ALS.
The "Ice Bucket Challenge" is showing us how to evangelize. It’s called "tagged," but "tagging" is evangelism. Noah and Lucas Aldrich are brothers. They live in Emmett, Idaho. Noah is 8 and Lucas is 6. They have been amazingly close and enjoying each other since they were born. But the younger brother, Lucas, was born with a genetic condition, "lissenchepaly"— literally a "smooth brain." Lucas’ condition has made it impossible for him to walk, or to talk, or to feed himself. He is confined to a wheelchair except of course when he is lying on the floor of the "kid’s room" playing with Lego’s Star Wars figures with his brother Noah.
Noah has been completely committed to Lucas ever since he was born. Noah doesn’t mince words when he describes his feelings about his younger brother. His feelings are a complete "ice bucket" of commitment. Noah simply says, "I love him. He is perfect!"
This last year Noah decided he wanted to do a "kid’s triathlon." He started training for the swimming, biking, running marathon. But Noah never even considered doing this triathlon without Lucas. Noah’s love for his brother could never leave Lucas on the sidelines. So when Noah competed in his first "kid’s triathlon he swam his four laps in the pool while pulling Lucas in a small raft behind him. He bicycled with Lucas attached to the back of his bike in a trailer. He ran the last miles of his race while pushing Lucas in a "racing stroller" in front of him. Both Noah and Lucas competed and completed THEIR triathlon together.
Noah has forever "tagged" his brother Lucas with love. He offered love that was not even an effort, just a natural outpouring of an indwelling love.
It’s the same kind of love that is offered up in a short form by Paul in Romans 13:8-14, when the apostle reminds us to "Love your neighbor as yourself." And that "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law."
Jesus’ "Ice Bucket Challenge" was the cross, where he demonstrated his utter commitment to bringing all of humanity back into the Father’s embrace. What overwhelming love. What redeeming power.
It’s not enough to know in our hearts that God is love, Jesus is Lord, Spirit is Life. Paul took his "tag" and passed it on to all. Paul "tagged" any and all he encountered with this message and challenge: God is Love, Jesus is Lord, Spirit is Life.
We are called to do no less. "Tag, you’re it" should be the chorus of us all. We are to "tag" those we meet, those we work with, those we know and care about, those we love, those we find unlovable, not with a challenge to dump ice water on their heads, but with the assurance that they are loved beyond all measure by a Savior God.
"Tag." You are all "it." God’s love is in your hands. The news that God is Love, Jesus is Lord, Spirit is Life is waiting to be doused on your neighbor. That’s the real challenge facing you this week. Whom will you tag?