Much Ado About Minecraft: When You Just Don’t Get It (John 21, Acts 9)

It is embarrassing to admit this, but I have a somewhat sketchy track record when it comes to predicting the success of a gaming franchise.  On one hand, I was strapped into a front row seat when the release of potentially niche titles such as Bioshock and Guitar Hero were originally launched and I was a charter member of the fan club at the ground level of their explosion into full-fledged blockbusters. But on the other hand, I have a very specific and distinct memory of sitting in a presentation room as Activision unveiled their plans for a bizarre concept that involved consumers purchasing a game that required additional purchases of all these bizarre little figures in order to progress, and I recall turning to my peers with a confidence born of pure stupidity as I dismissed the idea as one of the worst pitches I had ever heard.  I mean, seriously, who is going to pay almost 80 dollars for a game, and then turn around and pay hundreds more for all these little pieces of plastic just so they can experience the entire story?  Well, it appears the answer would be everyone, myself included, as the launch of this “doomed” concept became the multi-million dollar juggernaut known as Skylanders, which in turn created the entire toys to life gaming category that now includes Lego Dimensions, Disney Infinity, Nintendo’s Amiibo characters, and of course the continuing iterations of the Skylanders franchise.  I guess the lesson here is don’t invite this guy to your video game brainstorming session.  Your mileage may vary.

The lesson here is DON’T invite this guy to your video game brainstorming session.

So it is again with great shame that I admit that I totally missed the boat on Minecraft.  I would never classify myself as a graphics snob, but this game took ugly to a whole new level. It actually embraced the concept of jagged textures and simple color palettes and looked like something a friend of mine could design in a few hours during a computer science class in high school.  And then there’s the story.  As in, there isn’t one.  Instead, upon loading the game you receive a completely open world with almost none of the trappings we are all so familiar with in a “traditional” video game.  No plot, no character development, no exposition… Just go dig up the ground.  Then make something.  Dig up new stuff to make better tools so you can dig up more stuff.  Then make something else.  Oh, and there’s a pig.  Also, cows happen.

Here’s my REAL admission… I just don’t GET IT.

So here’s my real admission:  I just don’t get it.  This game simply does not appeal to me in any way, shape, or form. I know that billions of people around the world love this game dearly, and the success of this game has created billions and billions of dollars in revenue as it’s simple unassuming visuals combined with the “Legos on Steroids” gameplay hook  has taken the world by storm.  Creativity abounds as people around the world craft ever more intricate structures, limited only by their imagination.  And the kids, they LOVE IT.  Retail shelves have become crowded with foam facsimiles of the in game tools and weapons, shirts and other forms of wearable merchandising are everywhere, and ironically the success of the game has even spawned the launch of a spin-off story based franchise.  I guess the jokes on me again.

The Bible is FILLED with one stunning move after another as God laughingly defies our human attempts to put Him in a box.

Sometimes it can be confusing to attempt to balance the concept that  we serve a God of order with the reality that His idea of order and ours look totally different.  It is almost impossible to predict what He is going to do, and the Bible is filled with one stunning move after another as He laughingly defies our human attempts to put Him in a box.  Scripture is filled with examples of our fellow believers who “just don’t get it” as time and time again He defies our expectations.  I will provide a few examples of His stubborn refusal to allow us to give Him “structure”:

  • We expect God to make things “fair”.  In John 21 we get some of our last glimpses of Jesus before His ascension.  As Jesus is having a conversation with Peter about his destiny, including Peter’s eventual death by crucifixion, Peter has a wonderfully human response as his gaze lands on a fellow disciple.  Pointing him out, he asks Jesus a simple question… “What about him?”  The implications are clear, but Jesus refuses to take the bait as He challenges Peter on why it matters in what manner another disciple serves Him, in life or in death.    I can almost hear Jesus smile as He replies “If I want him to live until my return what is that to you?”  Different crosses for different folks.  God has an entirely different perspective on justice and fairness than we can comprehend.

 

  • We want God to “make sense”. In Acts 9, the fire-breathing, venom-spewing, death-dealing Saul of Tarsus is on a crusade to take down followers of Christ anywhere he can find them.  In the midst of his hunt an all-too informed disciple named Ananias, who happens to live in Saul’s next target city, is told by God to go find Saul and pray for him. It is not often that someone tries to ensure that God knows what He is talking about, but Ananias is afraid some critical info about Saul may have slipped through the cracks of God’s social networking app.  Ananias dutifully informs the Lord that Saul happens to be a bad guy… A very bad guy.  Who does bad things for bad reasons and has bad intentions towards all who follow Jesus.  And God gently reminds Ananias to GO, because God has His reasons. Saul then went on to write most of the New Testament and evangelize the world.  God sees beyond what makes sense right now.

 

  • We try to provide God with a “flow chart”.  In Acts 2 Peter instructs a group of potential converts to “Repent, be baptized, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.  Ahhh, nice clean structure to put on a Sunday School wall.  Until you get to Acts 10, where Peter is again preaching to a different group but God decides to jump the shark and the Holy Spirit falls on them completely out of “order”. Almost like He was deliberately mixing up the order so we couldn’t have a “recipe” that is one size fits all.  Cue Peter’s head scratching, followed by their baptism in water. Sorry to mess up your plan of salvation hand out…  God just can’t be contained by our outline.

 

  • We attempt to enforce our membership guidelines on Him.  It would make things so much less complicated if we could just get everyone on the same page, and the disciples felt the exact same way.  In Mark 9:38 we hear John informing Jesus that the disciples had come up on someone using His name for their ministry, but they were not a part of the “official fellowship”.  Maybe he didn’t fill out his membership card, or perhaps he was attending the wrong denomination.  Either way, they provided him with a cease and desist.  And Jesus immediately corrected them all, informing them that whoever is not against Him is for Him.  Like it or not, heaven will be populated with many people you may not expect.  God didn’t make denominational subdivisions in our eternal neighborhoods either, so we may want to break down those walls before we get there.

 

  • We at least need Him to be “consistent” so we can mimic Him.  But Jesus refuses to make this as simple as “wax-on, wax-off”, because there is simply no rhyme or reason to His healing process.  Jesus fluidly rotates from using physical touch (Matt 8:1-4), verbal commands (Matt 9:1-8), long-distance proclamations (Matt 8:5-13), receiving a touch through indirect clothing contact (Matt 9:18-22), and in one special circumstance made mud with His spit, stuck it in a man’s eye, and had to pray twice for the healing to occur because it didn’t heal completely the first time (Mark 8:22-25).  God clearly is not interested in giving us a nice, clean process that allows us to stop depending on Him for constant direction as each situation we face will require a unique, God-directed response.

I still don’t “get” Minecraft, and I suppose I probably never will.  And that’s okay.  And if I am being honest, I feel the same way many times with the things God says and does.  I don’t always get it, and I am becoming okay with that too.  When I want Him to follow a rigid structure He takes the role of a whimsical artist, coloring outside of my deadlines and painting the sky green and the ground blue in His perfect solution.  He is rarely the answer that I want, but He is ALWAYS the answer that I need.  And as Job found out so succinctly in Job 38 through 40, God has plenty of answers for this who dare challenge His plans with their supposed “wisdom”.  So I suppose I am glad now when I don’t “get it”, because that puts me in pretty good company.  Keep building those Minecraft worlds that I don’t understand, and I will keep trying to beat that stupid octopus in Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze.  And along the way let’s enjoy the guidance and direction of the unpredictable Lord that made us all one big, crazy, happy family.

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