February 7, 2021
In the movie Evan Almighty, Steve Carrell plays Evan Baxter, a new junior United States congressman whose life is upended by an unexpected visit from God. When God asks him to build an ark, Evan is understandably (and hilariously) disturbed. To Evan, the request is unreasonable and a nonstarter because (a) he just purchased a new home for his family in aptly named Prestige Crest and it is important that his behavior fit the norms of that high-class community (building a lot-sized boat there would not only disrupt the ambiance of the neighborhood, it would also violate all kinds of zoning laws); (b) he is trying to make a good impression at work; and (c) he is overly concerned about his appearance as evidenced by his meticulous daily grooming habits. But as God persists, Evan eventually relents. He, however, tries to find ways to maintain a sense of respectability while carrying out what was by all indications a ridiculous task. It soon becomes apparent that that won’t be possible—obeying God would make him look (and feel) crazy and he just had to accept that.
At the heart of Evan’s struggle was the issue of respectability, and Noah, whose epic biblical story inspired Evan Almighty, faced it (Gen. 6:9-22; 7:1-10). Would he obey God and risk looking crazy or disobey God and preserve his sense of respectability?
Noah’s was an especially difficult test because it’s human nature to desire to be respected. For better or worse, we care, to one degree or another, what others think of us. We don’t want people to think we are crazy, certainly don’t want them to laugh at us, and we work hard to remain in the bounds of what is considered “normal.” But every now and then God asks his people to do something that risks that, and obeying him in those moments requires crazy faith.
Interestingly, “crazy” is a relative term. What looks crazy to one person may be normal to another. Quite often, things look crazy simply because we do not understand them. Our organized and limited minds will often place what we don’t understand in the “odd or crazy” category until some other event or experience makes it make sense. For instance, I remember reading the name “Guy Forget” and thinking, “What kind of name is that?” It occurred to me later that it was French and pronounced “Gee For-zhe.” My lack of knowledge made something that was perfectly normal seem ludicrous.
In Mark 3:21, we read that Jesus’ family went after him to take him home because they thought he was crazy! It was only after his death and resurrection that people understood what he had been about. And, of course, Noah’s community finally understood the crazy ark-building when the flood came (Matt. 24:37-39).
Three things are clear in Noah’s story. First, believers must be prepared to take and pass the “crazy test” because if they don’t, they risk losing much more than their sense of respectability. Second, God is not in the business of embarrassing his people; there is always a good reason behind even his “ludicrous” requests. Third, if we are not willing, in obedience to God, to risk our sense of respectability and possibly being “out” with people whose good regard we desire, God may not be able to use us in significant ways. Every Christian must accept that there are some tasks in this journey that will require crazy faith.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10, ESV)