The Panda Express Test

Coming down the grape-vine we always happen to stop for lunch at In-N-Out. However, on our last trip, when the question was asked, all my siblings shouted from their seats, “Panda

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Express!”And in an even more bizarre fashion, we drove to Panda Express without a challenge. We ordered our food, ate it quite quickly, and did what we always do  – take turns cracking the fortune cookies to see who’s is the best. But after reading them aloud, I began to ponder, “What makes a fortune cookie a fortune cookie?” What stops customers from jumping from their seats and chucking every last one of them at that poor and helpless cashier? Why do we all seem to enjoy them so much, yet give them so little value?

My first thought, and the one that lasted for the rest of my lunch, was this: Are the fortunes in fortune cookies written so that they are always true? Like the Oracle of Delphi’s prophecy to Croesus, King of Lydia, when he consulted her about going to war with Persia, said, “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.” Interpreting it favorably, he attacked Persia. However, it was his kingdom that was destroyed and not Persia’s. Was the prophecy not merely true, but inevitably true? If Persia had lost would the prophecy still have be equally true? What if neither kingdom fell, but years later, as by some perceived result or loose connection of that conflict, some other great kingdom which had arisen fell? Would the prophecy still have been considered fulfilled? Lunch had ended, so we packed up and continued our drive home.

This topic was recommenced when a friend of mine, over a cup of hot chocolate, asked me, “What do you think of the gift of prophecy?” I replied, “I don’t have anything theologically against it at the moment, but am yet to see it used properly. People who claim to speak prophecy over people speak things that are not merely true, but inevitably true. Imagine a person who says, ‘You have unfulfilled potential.’ To what person is this not true? Imagine another person who says, ‘You will go through trials, but God will be with you.’ To what Christian, or, as a matter of fact, to what individual is this not true? Imagine a person who comes to you and says, ‘I feel God wants me to tell you that He’s not finished with you.’ To what can a Christian say but, ‘Amen, for it is already written, to live is Christ and to die is gain?’  We have forgotten a prophet didn’t speak of things that were inevitably true, but were particularly true – with dates, and times, and parting knowledge that could be seen as true or false depending upon particular statements.”

We are mistaking the gift of prophecy for the practical kindness of encouragement and telling someone that there is room to grow in their life or that life is tough and you’re not alone. We are betraying a title in the Old Testament, a gift in the New Testament, for the mere satisfaction of our own emotional longing to be relevant in our kindness and peace in knowing that we cannot be wrong. We have taken away all the thrills of speaking to an individual on their terms, and therefore being responsible for what is said, and sought out the mundane of speaking on no one’s terms. In attempting to be more emotional, we have become less intimate.

I believe we have traded the practical beauty of speaking to one another for a mystical omen for which we have no understanding of its value because there is no value to be understood. We have forgotten that the Good Samaritan was good not because he carried four people out of a burning house, shinning with the brilliance of Superman and leaping out the second story window as the home burst into flames. Nor was he good because he spoke a maxim that was never false in any world. He was good because he reached out and assisted someone who had a need, a particular need, and made sure that need was fulfilled.

Remember when someone is claiming to speak a Word of Prophecy the Panda Express test:

“Is what is said inevitably true, or is it particularly true? Is it something that could be placed in a fortune cookie and be true in any and every instance, or is it something that has a particular meaning for a particular someone imparted for a particular purpose?”

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