I’m Afraid Not

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” — Ryan O’Neal, Love Story, 1970

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard,” — Ryan O’Neal, What’s Up Doc? 1972

We Baby Boomers and The Greatest Generation before us suffered the whiplash of sudden cultural self-awareness in the 1960s followed by the grinding self-indulgence of the “Me Decade” in the 1970s.  Christianity could barely catch its breath.

Not that I was a Christian at that point.  Navigating my middle-teen years and the bounty of intelligence, introspection, and worldly wisdom (cough, cough) I was to gain through college and into my early 20s and subsequent career, I had drifted completely away from my religious youth as an altar boy in the traditional Episcopal Church.

No, I didn’t know Jesus, but Father Cooper was a wonderful and kind man, and I knew the old communion service by heart.  It wasn’t until 30 years later that I came to understand and appreciate the beauty and depth of those words I could recite at 14.

The difference later was that I came to know Jesus, the Bible, and met so many Christians who were everything I didn’t think they’d be.  They were smart, kind, creative, educated, funny, generous, prosperous in their faith, highly productive in their vocations, and unwavering in their belief that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God, trusting Him as their Lord and Savior.  I learned all that in a church that reads the Bible.

None of that last paragraph would have made any sense to me prior to 2001, at age 47, when I very suddenly “got it.” Jesus made sense and the church came alive.  Most importantly, from an operational standpoint, the Bible mysteriously, magically, wonderfully before my eyes turned from opaque gibberish into utter clarity.  I saw God’s person, Jesus’s truth, humanity’s great fall but great opportunity, and the excitement, adventure, and joy of so much of life making an eternal kind of sense I had never seen before.  Why, even my childhood church liturgy morphed into a new creation of wonder.

All these lights coming on comprised the greatest gift imaginable.  They provided to me a life-changing, mind-altering, priority-shifting, and truth-testing reboot not just of worldview but of hope (eternal), understanding (divine), and love (other-directed).

So, here’s my point, which despite the preceding autobiography is really nothing about me.  It is everything about why and how we are encouraged to go to church, be in Christ, seek comfort and wisdom in the Holy Spirit, discern God, and consume our hearts with the grace, peace, trust, and compassion of Jesus.  What I’m saying is:

Fear and guilt can never build a loving relationship; trust and responsibility do. A self-focused life will imagine that “being loved” means “doing whatever I want.”  My own glory requires, “I gotta be me!”  Ergo, one never has to say, “I’m sorry.” Rubbish.

A worldly, liberal church going overboard to make your magnificent “You!” front-and-center relevant misses the key message of Christ that this life is about God’s glory more than mine or yours. And a church holding everyone’s sin and stumbles in constant reproach for the “price Jesus paid” and the “punishment we deserve” is preaching worldly transaction and retribution instead of extolling God’s divine grace in Jesus.

That’s when freedom and love die at the altar of control by fear and guilt.  Amen.

Satan applauds self-focus because it creates comparison, envy, and division.  Loving relationships grow amid mercy, encouragement, and trust, not self-obsession.

Still think it is all about you?  Sorry… I’m afraid not.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) is not afraid of God; he is thankful God is there. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Author: Bob Walters

Walters is a former sportswriter and public relations executive who became a baptized believer in Christ in the fall of 2001. He writes, edits, and serves in the Christian community. From 2006-2015 his "In Spirit" column was published in the north metro Indianapolis, Ind., "Current" newspapers in Carmel, Westfield, Noblesville and Fishers (circulation: approx. 100,000 homes). Upon coming to Christ in his late 40s, Walters became friends with longtime Christian minister Russ Blowers (1924-2007), who mentored Bob's faith and Christian writing. Walters is a member of East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, where he is active in several ministries and coordinates a Wednesday night study taught by retired Cambridge theology lecturer Dr. George Bebawi. Born in Michigan, Walters grew up in Kokomo, IN, and went to Franklin College of Indiana ('76). He is married to Pam and is dad to sons Eric and John.

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