1“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, 3 He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
“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.
Do you ever wonder what people think of you?
Someone overhears a snippet of your conversation and you wonder what kind of person they make you out to be. “What if they think I’m an unwed mother?” “What if they think I’m a spendthrift?”
When we place ourselves at the mercy of public opinion, we lose sight of the fact that God Himself is the ultimate judge.
He knows why we’re doing what we’re doing: why we hold back our words or gush over, why we’re paralyzed by one fear or eagerly expecting the next moment to come. We should care about others, but not to the point that we allow what they think to override what God knows.
When we’re walking with God, it takes the fear out of life. If we allow Him, He can love us out of our irrational fears–every fear that tells us that it’s more important than Him.
Isn’t that good news? Scratch that… isn’t that the best news?