I watched a good bit of Tuesday night’s creation debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” (who by the way, I always felt was just a retread of Nickelodeon’s Mr. Wizard. What ever happened to that guy?)
For probably an hour and half I sat watching each man’s presentation, listening to their thoughts and bombing jokes, while at the same time reading Tweets from viewers on the opposing sides as their relentlessly trolled one another.
I’ve sat through both college-level biology and apologetic courses, so I knew most of what was coming, but like a freshman on the first day of class, I was really trying to bring my A game when it came to paying attention. I even logged off BuzzFeed. Never would have done that in college.
Then, Ham said something so profound it made me just give up, close my laptop, and wonder if Seinfeld was still on.
At some point Ham said, and I’m paraphrasing, Christian evolutionists can exist because salvation is based on belief in Jesus, not belief in creationism.
That bounced around in my head for a minute before reality smacked me in the face. I wasn’t watching the main event, I was watching a brawl on the ring’s apron.
You know what I’m talking about. One of those old school W.C.W. moments when someone comes running down the steel-riveted ramp during the middle of a big match and proceeds to attack one of the wrestlers’ ring-side allies.
Sure, it’s entertaining. Heck it might even have been more fun to watch than the battle taking place in the ring, especially if there was a chair involved.
But at the end of the day, the belt was always awarded for the fight taking place in the ring, not on the apron.
When I heard Ham’s thoughts on salvation that’s how the whole creation-evolution debate began to feel to me, like a fight happening outside of the ring and with no title on the line.
I mean, if we weren’t talking life or death, Heaven or Hell here, what was I doing putting so much stock into watching two guys’ slideshows and thousands of angry people tell each other how ignorant they are? Why was I so focused on this apron brawl?
And perhaps more importantly, what was going on in the ring of the main event during this time that I was missing?
I think this happens to us a lot as Christians. There are a lot of apron brawls out there, some inside the church, some out, that we get so wrapped up in, it hurts our performance in the main event.
But that’s the danger of the apron brawl. Just ask anyone who ever wrestled a member of the Four Horsemen.
One minute you’ve got Ric Flair on the ropes and the next you’re so focus is drawn to what Arn Anderson is doing to your teammate on the apron, you never see Flair coming with the cheap shot to the groin. Suddenly the figure-four leg lock is on and it’s over. Flair gets the belt.
Whether it be creation vs. evolution, modern vs. traditional worship music, or the style of crackers for communion, when we start ranking these side battles among our top priorities, our attention can easily be drawn away from the real war.
When that happens, I think the apron brawls of life can become a tool the devil uses to distract us from what we should really be doing. In fact it might very well be his most effective tool for that.
Last night I saw some of that happen. I saw people on both sides get so wrapped up in the debate, they began attacking each other, questioning each other’s faith and intelligence, and basically treating each other like crap.
I don’t know where the creation-evolution debate ranks in importance to you, but I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t be higher than Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, which was more than a little lacking in many those conversations.
But that’s what can happen during an apron brawl, our priorities can get all mixed up.
Now I’m not saying nothing good can come from standing up for yourself on the apron and I’m not saying that nothing good came from last night’s debate. I pray that it did.
I’m just saying when we start to focus on fighting outside of the ring, we have to be careful not to let it become more important than what’s going on inside it.
And while winning to our sides during those apron brawls can feel super important, and at times even be beneficial, we should never let it become more important than winning people to Jesus.
After all, Jesus didn’t command us to go into the world and spread creation, a God-inspired big bang, or a certain color of church carpet. He commanded us to go spread the good news of salvation.
That’s the battle for the belt.