Several years ago, the cotton industry came up with a slogan that promoted anything made from their product: Cotton, the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives. The advertisers knew they had to do more than tell people about the benefits of cotton; to increase sales, they had to let people experience the benefits of cotton. The goal was to have people think of how cotton felt rather than recite why it was beneficial. It was a good marketing strategy, but at its roots we find it has a Biblical truth as well.
Experience. It’s the crucial link that transforms information into comprehension; the abstract into the concrete. Without it, we are left with a lot of head knowledge that never matures and, therefore, never manifests. This is evident in life as we are exposed to information but, without internalizing it through experience, we fail to apply what we have learned. We have engaged on a mental level but we have not experienced on a physical level. In essence, we lack the threads of touch and feel and therefore are left without the fabric of understanding.
We know this to be true not only from our personal experiences, or lack thereof, but also through God’s portrayal of this truth through His Son. How did God make Himself known to mankind? How did a spiritually abstract God allow Himself to become physically concrete so that simple minded man could experience who He was? He did it through His Son, Jesus Christ; the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). God knew that mankind would never be able to show humility, love, forgiveness, or mercy if they didn’t first experience it for themselves. And so, an invisible God wrapped Himself in visible flesh so that His children could experience, and thereby learn, His attributes.
When we read the gospels, we see the Master Teacher at work, continually using experience to transform head knowledge into heart-felt understanding. He showed forgiveness when He told Peter to tend His flock, even after he had denied Him three times. He showed humility when He washed not just eleven pairs of feet but twelve (yes, Judas experienced a foot washing as well). He showed love for a family when He brought Lazarus back to life and He showed love for all mankind when He hung on a cross. He showed mercy when He told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in paradise. In every encounter, Jesus infused experience…He included the touch, the feel…so that even now we can have a deeper understanding of our Heavenly Father not just because of what Jesus said, but because of what Jesus did.
And so we must ask ourselves if we have an understanding of God that is based upon experience. Have we felt His love, have we known His mercy, have we put on His humility, have we worn His forgiveness? If so, have we in turn shown these to others? Have we allowed others the opportunity to experience the touch and the feel of these characteristics or did we just give them verbal threads that could not be woven into a life-giving fabric? If we do not incorporate the use of experience in our relationships with others, then we are not following God’s example and we are not manifesting our understanding of God to them. If this occurs, either we have simply overlooked the importance of experience or we have never truly learned through experience.
Experience: the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives. As we strive to follow Jesus’ example and rely upon the Holy Spirit to make us more Christ-like, let’s not overlook the importance of experience. Let’s do more than say we love, or forgive, or accept; let’s show others how it feels to be loved, to be forgiven, and to be accepted. Let’s follow Jesus’ example and, perhaps, His slogan: Christianity, the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives.