Are you more like an Elf or a Dwarf? I’m physically more of an Elf. Not the silly mini-beings of far-northern toy factories, cobblers’ shops, or hollow cookie-oven trees. I’m talking real elves like Legolas. The type that is tall, lean, and has long flowing blond hair. OK, two out of three isn’t bad. I frequently startle people because they didn’t hear me walk up, just like Legolas could walk on the snow without leaving so much as a footprint.
Contrast that with the literally heavy-footed Gimli the Dwarf. They became friends in the end despite their cultural/racial differences (within the mythology of Middle Earth). But the Dwarfs’ living depended on extracting resources from the earth. A Dwarf can no more sneak up on someone than our upstairs neighbor can walk across his floor without our appliances rattling. Sometimes we swear he’s part elephant.
“Live quietly,” says Paul to the Thessalonians, and “mind your own affairs.” I admire the efforts of “No Impact Man” to leave as small an environmental footprint as possible by living a sustainable, green lifestyle, recycling and such. (As long as one doesn’t pull Al Gore stunts like purchasing carbon offset credits to justify an otherwise inexcusable scale of consumption.) But I think what Paul is referring to is more of a way of life that quietly incarnates the grace, mercy, and truth of the Gospel without drawing undue attention to itself. A sort of relational sustainability, if you will.
This week in small group we talked about the character of Daniel. The boys shared ways they have had to do what is right when it went against what’s popular. Two students who go to the same school talked about classmates in their FCA group who show up for the free doughnuts but then go around cussing like little sailors the rest of the week. I commended them for their quiet stand for the truth. Without naming Fred Phelps or describing his “church’s” precise anti-gay agenda, I told them how much more effective their witness is than picketing a soldier’s funeral because you think God is punishing America for allowing immorality.
So which are you? An “Elf” who lives out a quiet, unobtrusive witness? Or a lumbering Dwarf who tromps through life with little regard for the human debris you leave in your wake?