For Heaven’s Sake, Lighten Up
JULY 21, 2021
Whatever happened to our childlike wonder and joy at the good news of Jesus Christ?
How did we get from a simple carpenter to a rich and powerful ecclesiastical structure . . . from the joyful message of God’s acceptance to our need to discipline, correct, and control . . . and from love to angry convictions?
I once shared my faith with a woman who was very interested in what I was saying about the Gospel. I told her that God would forgive her sins—past, present, and future—if she would go to him. I told her about the meaning and peace that would be hers. I told her that she could be free, valued, and accepted forever, and that God would never be angry at her.
“That’s great,” she said, “I never knew that!”
Thinking that she was surely one of God’s elect, I said, “You know, all of that can be yours. In fact, we can bow our heads right now. You can accept what Christ has done for you and it will become the reality of your life. Want to do that?”
There was a long, thoughtful pause, and she said, “I don’t think so.” Then she turned and walked away.
We all want to do it ourselves without God interfering, especially unbelievers. But I really don’t understand Christians who have heard the good news, accepted it, and rejoiced in it; but then, for some strange reason, make the good news into bad news. I just don’t get it.
Do you remember when Jesus rode into Jerusalem in Luke 19? Jesus’ friends were so excited, they almost became charismatic. They laughed and rejoiced, praised God, and laid down their cloaks in front of the donkey. This was a big time celebration . . . a party to end all parties.
But, of course, the religious and the righteous said to Jesus, “Uh . . . do you think you could do something about all this noise? It is all so boisterous, out of control, and fraught with such inappropriate laughter.” (That’s not exactly in the text, but I know Greek!)
Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Jesus was saying there was something so essential to his presence—so joyous, freeing, and alive with laughter—that, if his followers just “played church,” the rocks would then have to cry out with joy, freedom, and laughter for them.
I fear that when we see inappropriate theology, inappropriate worship, and uncontrollable Christians doing inappropriate things, it is nothing more or less than “rocks” crying out for a reality, joy, and meaning that can’t be found in our midst. They are, of course, “seeking love in all the wrong places,” but at least they are seeking love.
Mark tells us that the common people heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37). Do you think that was because he gave them good theology, and he told them God was angry and condemned them? Of course not. They heard Jesus gladly because he loved and forgave them.
Jesus is still going around and doing that. He is still loving and forgiving.
Someone told me a story about the actor Richard Harris when he was in Ireland and rented a car with a stick shift. Harris had a hard time with the stick shift, but he managed to drive it out of the rental agency. At the first stoplight, though, he couldn’t get the car into gear and kept trying through several stoplight changes from red to green.
Finally, the Irishman in the car behind him got out of his car, walked up to Harris’ car, and tapped on the window. When Harris lowered the window, the man asked, “Excuse me for asking, but was it a particular shade of green you were waiting for?”
What if you got a “free pass” on all your sins, all of them until the day you died? What if you knew you were going to live forever? What if you didn’t need to be right or pretend to be good because God accepted and valued you no matter what? What if you thought that God liked you, really liked you? What if God were to make you better than you are, doing so with gentleness and love?
A friend once sent me this “statement from God”: “Good morning, child. I am going to handle all your stuff today. I won’t need your help, so have a good day.”
What if that were true?
As I understand it, that’s what the Gospel is all about. That’s the reason it’s such good news. That’s why we can laugh, dance, and rejoice.
So, for heaven’s sake, lighten up.