First, the subject of our conformity to Christ has been on and off my mind for well over a year now. In fact, I wrote about it *here*. It confounds and amazes me that the rough biker who tattooed “Jesus is the SH*T” on his arm (No, I’m not kidding. The story is in this book.) and the prim and proper, homeschooled, never-been-kissed Bible college student are pursuing the same Likeness. So are the professional basketball player and the mother of five who organizes a scrapbooking club. So are Charles Stanley and the nameless (to us) Chinese believer who sits in prison because of his faith. Fascinating. How can it be that all of us, who look and act and respond and even pray so differently, are simultaneously being conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29)?
Second, I love popcorn. I sometimes thank God for popcorn, and I eat unhealthy amounts of it—especially at the movie theater. At least it’s a whole grain. (That’s what I tell myself as I stuff over-salted, butter-laden handfuls into my mouth with wanton disregard for the cleanliness of my shirt and chair, not to mention my arteries!)
Popcorn is so Biblical! Indulge me for a minute and we’ll have a little fun here.
- Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Popcorn is just no good without salt. Even kettle corn has salt and sugar, you know.
- The Old Testament act of anointing someone/something with oil recognized a set-apartness. You need oil to make good popcorn.
- Popcorn has a distinct and compelling aroma, just like Christ-followers (2 Corinthians 2:15).
- Finally, in the same way that manna spoiled overnight, popcorn is terrible the next morning. It, like the aforementioned salt, is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (still Matt 5:13).
Not surprisingly, I have a bigger point than my unhealthy appetite. Popcorn really can tell us something about our lives as Christ-followers.
Popcorn, even a single kernel, is easily recognizable.
I’m not sure that popcorn has the individuality of fingerprints or snowflakes, but there is significant variety between kernels (especially if you burn some of them . . . off topic, sorry); yet a big bowl of popcorn is clearly that and nothing else. Real Christians are hugely varied, yet you put them together and they recognize each other. In God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew describes an encounter in a communist country with someone he had never met: “As we neared the front door, I glanced for a fraction of a second into the face of the man who had arrived at the precise moment I did. And at that instant I experienced one of the common miracles of the Christian life: our spirits recognized each other.” I can personally testify to that experience as well. What is more, others outside the faith community can recognize a group of believers, and it’s not because we stand around singing kum-ba-yah.
Popcorn only pops when heated.
Before it pops, you have hard, ugly, inedible kernels–like us before we began to follow Christ. But then the Holy Spirit turned up the heat. Conviction brought you to the point of thinking you were going to burst, and for a brief time, you sat rocking in the hot oil, hesitating. Then you exhaled, and you became something pleasant to everyone around you. (Work with me here; I know your personal pleasantness may not have happened instantaneously.) That’s when the “aroma of Christ” started to kick in, too.
Something special inside the kernel makes it pop.
Science lesson: What makes a kernel of popcorn pop? It’s a small drop of water inside the kernel which, when heated, becomes steam, expanding and forcing the kernel to explode. This is faith. Ephesians 2:8 says, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. God puts the water into the popcorn kernel, and He puts the faith into us. What, you may ask, about those few unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bowl? I don’t know. Maybe God didn’t give them faith; maybe they ignored the heat; maybe they didn’t get enough heat. That’s a question for my strict Calvinist and Armenian friends to debate. Regardless, faith is the means by which we become followers of Christ.
The hard outer shell of popcorn doesn’t actually disappear.
According to 2 Corinthians 4:16, Outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. With popcorn, the kernel turns itself inside out; the outward wastes away and the expanded, bready part becomes pronounced. This new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) is both distinctive and delightful.
So I share all of this with you . . . why? I have no agenda. Perhaps it will help you explain the process of becoming a Christ-follower or help you understand “conformity to Christ.” That’s my thing. I don’t like conformity, so verses like Romans 8:29 leave a bad taste in my mouth (unlike popcorn!) until the Holy Spirit helps me come to terms with them through images such as this. Or perhaps my thoughts will cause you to enjoy popcorn in a new light. If that’s the case, invite me over, and we’ll dig through a big bowl together!
Can you think of another way that popcorn is like the Christ-life? Please share it in the comments.