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Ubuntu and Jesus: Changing operating systems as a metaphor for conversion

Ubuntu-LogoI’d always thought that Linux sounded cool. Maybe that’s the anti-establishment side of me, but when I needed to buy a new computer I considered the possibility of trying Linux. Windows 8 had gotten bad reviews, and Macs are too expensive here in Colombia to justify buying one. I started looking into Linux and found that Ubuntu is the most popular flavor of the open-source OS. I figured I’d give it a try.

Switching operating systems is something like conversion to Christ. I want to share a couple of comparisons between conversion and switching to Ubuntu that have crossed my mind since making the change.

First, I experienced many doubts about the change. Would Ubuntu meet my needs? Would I invest a lot of time and energy in learning a new OS to find it was a waste of time? Would my productivity be hampered? These doubts are similar to those that people experience before conversion. Jude advises us to “have mercy on those who doubt” (v. 22, ESV). Sometimes we may not understand the doubts of people contemplating the claims of Christ, but we should show mercy towards them and try to comprehend their hangups in order to answer them. Although God is sovereign in salvation, he uses us as his instruments to alleviate mental and emotional barriers to the gospel. After reading a number of articles on Ubuntu I determined that some aspects of my workflow would probably change, but that I would probably be able to continue to meet all of my responsibilities.

Second, in switching to Ubuntu I made a number rookie errors. For example, I initially installed the newest experimental version (12.10), but within a short time I was reaping the consequences of that decision. Some of the programs I tried to install crashed repeatedly. I finally went with the long-term support version (12.04) and have enjoyed much greater stability since. This can be compared to many new Christians who begin their Christian life in churches that are not Word and gospel-centered. These churches focus on experience. They promise prosperity, joy, and productivity. They tend to downplay the gravity of our sin, and the greatness of our Savior. They shun historical theology and prefer the latest and greatest. What happens to these new believers, if they are believers? Usually they conform themselves to the theology of their new church, imbibing the experiential bent of this Christianity-lite. Others leave frustrated or hurt. Thankfully, some find another church that is sound in doctrine and practice. How can you know the difference? A sound church should emphasize the five solas that came out of the Reformation (Five Solas). It should be focused on the gospel of Christ and on the clear exposition of the Word of God. The pastors should be approachable when people have questions about their teaching. As the Bereans, the people should be encouraged to receive “the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Obviously, many more factors must be examined, but these are perhaps the most fundamental.

Third, I passed through various trials in my switch to Ubuntu. At least three times I was on the verge of pulling the plug. Linux has a program called Wine which can be used to run Windows applications. Wine is a mixed bag. I have been able to run Bibleworks in Wine, but other programs act crazy in Wine. Don’t even think of trying to run Microsoft Office in Wine! When I learned this, I almost reinstalled Windows 7. Thankfully another program, called Virtualbox, saved me. You can install other operating systems on Virtualbox. I have Windows 7 installed and am thinking about installing a Mac OS too. At any rate, you open Virtualbox and run Windows as a guest OS within Ubuntu. I have had very little problems with this set-up. I run a few of the Microsoft programs I absolutely need within Virtualbox. I’ve shut off Internet capabilities for Windows 7, so viruses are not a problem, and of course Ubuntu doesn’t even need virus protection. So, in spite of my moments of weakness, I’ve persevered. This illustrates the manner in which the author of Hebrews talks about our salvation. I take the warning passages in Hebrews as exhortations to persevere. Although our salvation is secure in Christ, God never speaks of our salvation as a ticket to heaven. True believers must persevere, and they will because God’s grace will carry them through the testing of their faith. Peter expresses well this balance in 1 Peter 1:3-5:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Finally, in both Ubuntu and the Christian life, we need to be willing to change. Ubuntu is not Windows, nor is it Mac. Almost two decades of using another OS makes the change difficult at times. You need to learn how to use the command line to type in some code with Ubuntu. Some people will not be able to do this, just as some people refuse to leave their former habits behind. True believers have died to their former way of life, but in the practice some do not live in light of this death (Romans 6:11).

I could go on, but I will leave you with these thoughts. One major difference between Ubuntu and conversion is that Ubuntu is not a good change for everyone. In contrast, conversion to Jesus Christ is the best change anyone can experience. No true believer has ever regretted it. Think about what Paul says and receive the reconciliation that comes through faith in Jesus:

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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