Striking the right note

piano-note

Years ago, an elderly couple in a congregation whom we barely knew were often heard to say, “We just want to love everybody.” Their phrase has stuck with me across the decades.

I don’t know what they meant by it. Did they want to ignore the doctrine of Christ and be, back in that day, all-inclusive? Had they been hurt seeing some harsh attitudes in the body of Christ?

They were not prominent people in the congregation. Even their attendance may not have been as regular as one might expect. Back then, their phrase didn’t impress me much. It seemed to leave too much out. Maybe they meant to cut away beliefs or actions important to others. Maybe not.

Whatever they meant by it, they struck the right note. The Way is the path of love, if it is anything. One thing for certain, God just wants to love everybody. And not only wants, but seeks it.

God sent his Son for salvation. He sent his Spirit for transformation. He sent his Word for sanctification. All in the name of love.

Maybe that couple was on to more than I knew.

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¶ You can read tons of books on “Christian leadership.” Not so many on Christian servanthood. Has the church of God come full circle, from the oppressive power of kings and authorities, to Jesus as servant, back again to the Power Rangers of the Church? Restoration, anyone?

¶ Denominational creeds used to be the religious bogeyman. And that they were. Now every man is a creed unto himself. Not sure which is worse, to be in the clutches of enshrined religious error or strangled by personal values which exalt the ignorance of man.

¶ Y.T. is successfully whittling down his personal library. His old college chorus songbook is going to one of his descendants. At this rate, he should be done in a couple of centuries. Or three.

¶ How many have hastened to say that the power of prayer is not in the one who prays nor in the manner of praying, but in the Lord who answers supplications and intercessions? It’s a statement of the obvious, and no doubt good to state it now and again. But let us not be afraid to speak of the power of prayer. James does. “The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness” Jas 5.16b.

It’s shorthand, of a sort. Let’s not be sanctimonious in our statements, trying to be overly precise, when not even the Bible adheres to such precision. Worse than “holier than thou” is being holier than the Holy Bible.

¶ Some books become dated quickly. Others seem to be timeless. Sitting not so far away from each other on the shelves are Barber’s The Minister’s Library and Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, this one published back in 1728. Without disparaging the limited usefulness of the one, the other still issues a vigorous and pertinent call to holiness.

¶ Then again, some books come stillborn off the presses. A few of those sit on the shelves as well. They propose some new line of thought, or purport to save us from ourselves, or open up an escape hatch from our impossible situation, heretofore undiscovered by common mortals such as ourselves. But they offer a solution worse than supposed malady, throwbacks as they are to human wisdom and the ingenuity for which devious minds are famous. Of course, many become besot with the pomposity and the persuasiveness of the authors. Offering freedom, the doctors of theology and inventors of religion chain the reader and follower to devilish manacles nigh unto impossible to throw off once the arms and feet are thrust within them. The wilder the theory, the more are willing to bow down to it.

¶ Only if you can distinguish between the good mushrooms and the poisonous ones, should you gather them in the wild. The same may be said of religious books.

¶ The internet is in crisis, say some. It began as a means of communication among equals for the exchange of research and other important information, only to become, today, a commercial enterprise where the user is the product being sold to advertisers, or a foolish waste of time. You judge.

¶ Following Jesus requires personal risk. Vulnerability among snakes and wolves scares the weak-kneed. The potential for pain keeps many from commitment. Betrayal lurks in the dark. The ledges of faith leave a man breathless.

So why not stay at home and watch the reruns?

Why did the chicken cross the road? (Does this last question strike a wrong note?)