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Have you ever noticed that some people take themselves a little too seriously? (If you haven’t noticed, my guess is you are one of those people.)
I’ve noted that three of the biggest categories of people who are often guilty of this are politicians, movie stars and certain sports fans.
For politicians, it often takes the form of them speaking as if they are the sole reason that the earth keeps spinning on its axis. For movie stars, it is usually seen when they assume that because they get paid a lot of money to pretend to be someone else in a film. It means that everyone should care what they think. For sports fans, it usually means they can’t see anything that has to do with their team objectively.
Of course, because I’m not a politician or a movie star it makes them easy targets for me. As far as being guilty of sometimes skewing things in the realm of sports, well, as the old song says, “two out of three ain’t bad.”
However, there is another group that sometimes has a tendency to take themselves too seriously. This group is one that I’ll affectionately call “church people.”
And, since I am most definitely one of those, I don’t feel badly sharing some items that should help us not take ourselves so seriously, and maybe laugh a little bit in the process.
All of the following are purported to have been found in different church publications, and because I found the list on the Internet, they must be authentic. Some of the items were just worded in an unfortunate way, like this one: “Don't let worry kill you off – let the church help.”
I’m not sure that was the exact message they were trying to send.
Some items made it seem like things weren’t thought through very well, like this: “The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’” Better bring your scuba gear.
How about this one? “Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.” OK, we may not be perfect, but that’s a little harsh, don’t you think?
Several items pertained to that most beloved of church traditions, the church choir. For example, “Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.” I’m sure that was a reference to quantity, not quality.
But perhaps not at this church, “At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.” I think I’ve heard that choir.
I wonder if this one is a free event, or if you have to pay for the opportunity: “The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.” Sure, we may be hostile, but at least we’re gracious about it.
These next two seem like they could go together: “The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.” Hmmm…that’s one way to draw a crowd. Here’s another, “This evening at 7 p.m. there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.” To make it easier, they could’ve held the event in the church basement with the naked ladies.
Apparently, the women at this church are only slightly more refined: “Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 a.m. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.” I’m sure that is short for Bible Study…and shame on you for thinking anything different.
These last two are perhaps my favorite: “The Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. Please use the back door.” “Weight Watchers will meet at 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.”
Yes, we really should lighten up (no pun intended) and not take ourselves so seriously.
But while there are some things we shouldn’t take so seriously, there is at least one thing I believe we need to be much more serious about: our attitude concerning God.
In the 10 Commandments that Charlton Heston, er, I mean Moses, famously brought down from the mountain (in Exodus 20), the third one tells us not to use the name of God in a thoughtless or irreverent way.
In earlier times, believers took God (and this command) so seriously that they wouldn’t speak his name at all or even write it down. How far the pendulum has swung, as we now casually refer to God as ‘the Man upstairs’ or use his name as the beginning of a curse or as a simple exclamation of surprise. In the world of “text-speak” we have even shortened our sacrilege to a succinct three letter expression (omg!).
Though we don’t talk about it much anymore, the “fear of the Lord” used to be a concept that people understood. Nowadays, rather than hearing about fearing God, you’re much more likely to hear a preacher talk about God only as a God of love and mercy.
Of course, it’s true that God is a God of love and mercy. But it’s also true that the Bible talks about God as being holy and just, and describes his power and authority as something that properly inspires fear. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that of the 326 times the word fear is used in the Bible, more than two-thirds are in reference to fearing God.
Jesus himself said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, that’s who you should be afraid of.” (Luke 12:4-5)
I’m reminded of the words of Mr. Beaver in C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as he tries to explain the greatness of Aslan the lion (the Jesus figure in the book) to the Pevensie children: “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
So does all this mean we are to cower in the presence of God? Well, yes and no. The prospect of one day standing before a holy God in all of our sinful imperfection should rightly terrify anyone who is thinking about it clearly.
At the same time, that understanding is precisely what makes what Jesus did for us such good news. Because Jesus took all of our evil deeds upon Himself, the Bible says that if we have accepted him as our Savior and Lord that we can now stand before God, not with fear and trembling, but with confidence, knowing that we will be welcomed as his children.
Still, even as His children, the Bible insists that a fear-inspired awe of God is a good thing.
Moses said this was “so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Proverbs 8:13 takes this idea one step further, saying that “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.”
Pastor and Author Francis Chan says that if we could just see God for 10 seconds, no one would ever again have to remind us to fear Him. So perhaps some good advice for all of us is this: lighten up about yourself and get more serious about God.
And don’t forget, “A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.” And what a fragrant sound it will be.