One of my guilty pleasures is a love for The Simpsons!
I find the social commentary to be penetrating, the humour tasteful (usually) and the life portrayed by the Simpson family normal (apart from bright yellow skin and four digit hands).
I also find the truth of Scripture illustrated again and again.
Allow me to show you just one of these illustrations.
Let’s begin by meeting the family.
Homer – Homer is the father of the family. He loves beer and food, and because of that he is overweight and grossly unfit. He has frequent outbursts of rage and often exhibits little use of his mental faculties. Laziness is his number one character trait; if there is a corner to cut he has cut it. Naturally, all of this leads to him being a pretty poor employee at the Nuclear Power Plant where rather comically he serves as the safety inspector. In sum, Homer is a bit of a letdown.
Bart – Bart is the eldest child of the Simpson family. The saying ‘like father, like son’ comes to mind when thinking of Bart. He has behavioural issues, both at home and in school. Academically he consistently underachieves. Therefore, he is constantly in trouble with his parents, his teacher, the school principal and the authorities. Bart is the one the family are worried about. While he takes after his father, it seems the potential is there for him to ‘outdo’ him, and that is worrying.
Lisa – Lisa is the middle child, and perhaps suffers from middle child syndrome a little. Academically she excels. In terms of behaviour she is rarely in the wrong, and therefore rarely corrected. She is also an excellent musician, and a keen conservationist. She is something of a diamond in the rough. However, she is something of an annoying diamond in the rough. Even though she is a bit of a role model, she knows it. This leads to flashes of pride and arrogance, often flaunted in front of Bart.
Maggie – Maggie is the youngest child. There is not much can be said about her, she is just a perpetual baby. Never learned to talk, never learned to walk, and never seemed to grow either. She is a perpetual baby that needs perpetual care.
Marge – Finally we reach the glue of the Simpson family, Marge the mother. Marge is loving, caring, motherly, forgiving, accepting and so on and so forth. She is the constant in the Simpson family, always home, always cooking, always cleaning, always on top of things and always able to get the rest of them out of trouble!
I believe that the Simpsons reflect another family; the church.
Homer Christians – These are often slightly older Christians. They are the Christians who have failed to put to death the deeds of the flesh. They have allowed their bad habits to continue, and they have continued so long that to stop them would be very painful. However, not to be caught out they have devised the perfect plan for being part of a church, hiding when they need to hid, cutting corners when no one is looking and failing to commit without it being obvious. These Christians are the half-hearted Christians who are a bit of a letdown.
Bart Christians – These are the younger versions of Homer Christians. They often get into trouble, get caught out and find themselves ‘flunking’ the Christian life. In all reality they live their life little differently from the Homer Christians, it’s just they aren’t quite as cunning about it. Worry is shared over these Bart Christians because the path cut ahead for them looks fraught with peril.
Lisa Christians – These Christians have grown up in church, aced all the Sunday School quizzes, been doted on by the older Christians and they know it. In front of people they have it altogether. There seems to be no cracks or dents in their shiny armour. They are involved in most things, and the ‘important’ things, in church life. The only problem is there is a definite air of pride and arrogance about them.
Maggie Christians – Most often these Christians have been identified with the young men in their 20s and 30s who refuse to grow up. They play computer games all night, date girls for seven years and either live with their parents or get fed and have their washing done by their parents. But this is too narrow a scope for Maggie Christians. Maggie Christians are both male and female, are both young and old. The common factor is not gender and age, but maturity. Many Christians fail to grow up, they are still drinking milk and throwing their toys out of the pram whenever they should be chewing meat and acting like an adult.
Now, there are some Marge Christians – godly, spiritual, mature Christians.
But, I don’t think that does justice to the illustration. See Marge is not just the example for the family – she is the Saviour of the family. And so what we find as we look for Marge’s in the church is that there is only one – the head.
Marge is a picture of God – the ever constant, continually loving, consistently forgiving, always providing God.
The church is not held together by the ‘good’ Christians, it is held together by God – the loving Father, the redeeming Son and the unifying Spirit. The unchanging, eternally loving and constantly present God keeps the church family together – the church family with all of its letdowns, worries, ‘rough diamonds’ and babies.
This is how Scripture says it:
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.