The elephant in your tub
Long before people were talking about the elephant in the room there were elephant jokes. Children of the sixties remember them and there are lists of them at several web sites. If you want to read a couple and a little history about them, go here. My favorite---
Q: How do I know if there's an elephant in my bathtub?
A: I can smell the peanuts on his breath.
They were, of course, ridiculous puns and riddles about personal awareness. Except in a totally absurd world it would be impossible not to know there was an elephant in my tub. If for some reason I didn't detect his presence I would have bigger problems than his offensive peanut breath. And, of course, that was the humor in it, the truth that we humans have the capacity to miss the obvious, like an elephant hiding in strawberry patch. Wicked sister! She painted her toe-nails red and I totally missed her.
Let me quibble. Being unaware isn't the same as being uninformed, you know, like uninformed voters. They're not up on the issues, party platforms, where the candidates stand on the questions of the day, or what is happening in government at the time. The uninformed man might say, "I'm not sure about Sen. Alfred E. Neuman's voting record on the sanctity of life". The unaware person would say, "Oh, you mean there's going to be an election?" Being uninformed means you aren't prepared for something. When you are unaware you are unconscious of it, oblivious.
It's a fine distinction, being aware as compared to being informed. An informed person would know about his wife's big lunch meeting today and would wish her the best as she heads out the door. The aware man would also notice how she's dressed for the meeting and comment on it too. What is more, they are both attested as important elements of our assignment as kingdom people. Effective mission requires attentive spiritual leadership, informed and aware. The informed leader would know the demographics of the mission field and the strategic context of the assignment. The aware leader would notice the new family moving in down the street or the funeral wreath on the neighbors door.
Two biblical illustrations of being informed come to mind.
Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought
to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.
1 Chronicles 12:32, ESV
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell
asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption Acts 13:36, ESV
The tribe of Issachar knew what was happening in the world around them and therefore could advise the national leaders about the correct courses of action. King David knew his own times and how best to serve God's purpose in them. They were informed.
Jesus was informed and aware. Two examples of awareness are appropriate here.
Jesus, aware of this (the Pharisees conspiring against him), removed from there.
Matthew 12:15, ESV
But Jesus, aware of this (that they had forgotten to bring bread) said, "O you of
little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no
Matthew 16:8, ESV
Yes, of course, he was God the Son and could see things not so visible to mere humans. But, there is evidence that he was acutely attuned to what was happening around him. Especially in the Gospel of John he demonstrated an awareness of the timing of his "hour" and the currents of opposition that sought to accelerate it.
These are perilous times. The secular worldview is zooming to cultural predominance at a velocity greater than any period since the Enlightenment. Many believers are uninformed about the collision of worldviews and the agenda of the secularists. At the same time, many are unaware of the particulars of this movement as it happens right under our noses.
We are called to be watchful, meaning to be alert and aware.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do
be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
Colossians 4:2, ESV
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a
roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8, ESV
And, if there's an elephant in the tub, we better know it before we smell it's breath.