Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lighten Up Dudes!

Dear Friends,

I grew up in a church where the services were so solemn and serious that it was a sin to smile. On Easter Sunday, you were permitted a discrete reserved smile when you whispered, “Christ is Risen.” We had an expression of constipation on our countenance when we somberly greeted one another. We were the frozen chosen. And the Lord thy God doth mightily saith, “Lighten up, dudes!”

There are times when it's appropriate to be serious. Lent is a meditative season of reflection as we assess our walk with the Lord and hold it up to His light for careful examination. And, then there are times in our life when we are so filled with the joy of the Lord, that we just want to sing and dance. The Bible tells us that King David was so filled with joy that he worshiped the Lord by playfully dancing in the streets in his underwear. We also love our times of passionate worship, but to avoid scaring the neighbors, we might want to keep our pants on in public.

God-given pleasure, playfulness and a sense of humor will keep us young and alive. Did Jesus have a playful sense of humor? I can find no biblical evidence that He ever brought a confetti-filled pinata into the synagogue for the noon prayer service, but we can see the twinkle in His eye when He tells the rich young ruler that “it's easier for a camel to go through a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

Evangelical Christians have of late become very intense about our beliefs and doctrine. We wring our hands and lament over the state of our nation today while, “..the One whose throne is in Heaven sits laughing.” Psalm 2:1-4 And the One who sits on the throne would say, “Lighten up, dudes!” 

I'm not saying that we need to change our doctrine or compromise the word of God. But non-believers often perceive us as being judgmental, mean, harsh, intolerant and unloving. They read about church scandals, the moral failures of religious leaders and the horrific pattern of child abuse in the Catholic church. Can we blame them for not wanting to come join our church and be like us? 

We have the life-giving message of the Gospel and we've used that as a weapon to pound down what we are against. We have experienced the radical grace of God and then extended shame and judgement to others. We have received unmerited forgiveness from God for the worst of our sins and then we’ve not forgiven others for the crime of committing an offence against us. And Jesus would say, “Lighten up, dudes!”

We shout scripture and point accusing fingers at sinners. Jesus was accused of hanging out with them. Our Lord was constantly criticized for enjoying life a little too much. He was attacked by the Pharisees for going to feasts and banquets where He ate heartedly, drank wine and partied with sinners and loose women. Luke 7:34-39 I can't party like Jesus. I'm becoming more aware of what I eat. I don't drink and a certain loved one frowns on my hanging out with loose women. But I wonder if I should look at how Jesus treated others to see what I can learn from Him. 

I wonder if perhaps we should take off the “pro-life” or “pro-choice” buttons and just label ourselves as “pro-women.” I wonder how we would be perceived as Christians if we let God deal with the sins of others and we were to just embrace gays and people struggling with their sexuality with the same dignity and love as we would with any of God's children. I wonder what we would say about immigration reform if we studied scripture and saw people through God's eyes instead of our politics. I wonder if we should banish condemnation back to the netherworld from where it came. I wonder what would happen in our Nation if people saw Christians as joy-filled and not joyless. Peter said to “rejoice with joy” and I wonder what we would look like to the world if we actually did that. In fact, I wonder if maybe we should just start looking a little less like us and a little more like Jesus... Amen?

(Reprinted from an earlier post. April 2014)

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