….and unrelational and deluded?
Following on from the last note about mercy or grace, this ‘joy of being redeemed’ can be why Christians can appear to be insensitive to the outside world.
What I mean is, there you are visiting a church on a Sunday morning. You were persuaded to come by your importunate friend who promised you’d be blessed.
Last night on the news it was reported that the missing 3 year old has been found dead. Her tiny naked body found dumped in a river like a rotten chicken.
Then there was a bulletin about yet another earthquake which killed hundreds and left thousands injured and homeless.
To top it off, a bomb exploded in your capital city which has caused unbelievable devastation.
Back to church: The first song starts and a cacophony of woodwind, strings and percussion instruments try to contradict the euphonious harmony that everyone else is hearing. Your ears soon get used to the noise and the dulcet tones from the worship leader’s voice soothe the initial shock that had made you want to run outside.
Everywhere people of all ages, intellect and nationalities, are jumping, clapping, punching the air and warbling happily.
Not being used to seeing people display such affection for an invisible being, it looks more like a football match when the fan’s team has just scored a goal. No hymnbook holding here. No pious rocking back and forth on the toes. No pretending to know what the complicated ‘Ye Olde English and Latin words mean. Just a load of barmy people unfazed by their uncool displays of emotion.
But you’re not amused.
“Don’t they realise what happened yesterday? Are they in their own little world? How does their joy relate to the misery out there?”
We are happy because we have a God who is touched by all our sorrows. A God who is waiting for us to come to him for comfort. A God who is able to heal us of our trauma and deliver us from fear of the future. A God who wants the world to know he is here and ready to intervene in our lives if we let him -if we stop blaming him for every tragedy and ignoring him the rest of the time.
We are joyful because we remember that in our bad times, he helped us through them like no-one else could and because of this memory, we know he will help us again.
We are smiling and jumping because we know that in this evil world there is hope. We are not ignoring the heartbreak, but are thanking him for being the healer of broken hearts.
Yes we need to step out and do practical works to help those in need – God never called us to be in a holy bubble. Whether our church is situated across the road from a refuge centre or not, we should be the arms, ears, and feet that go out and help dry tears, change nappies, give out blankets, open our homes, give up our baths, offer our beds, cook meals and provide finances to assist the needy.
But on a Sunday morning our focus is on Jesus and how he makes such a difference in our lives. We are going to sing about it, shout about it and dance around.
We know he is looking at every hurting person and willing them to run into his arms. He so wants to be their steady anchor, a protective tower, a rock a strength and a hiding place from the storms around.
As the service continues, you notice there are no 2-minutes silences for the dead. No collections taken up for the bereaved. No mention of the front page headlines. But we still sing like hyenas and grin like Cheshire cats because God is in control and he is a God of compassion. He is stirring our hearts to pray for the suffering and to ask him to show us how we can help practically, not to win admiration from mankind, but as his compassion overflows into our hearts, it stirs our consciences into action.
Naturally, there will always be those who claim to be close to God but run away and hide in their luxury holiday villa as soon as disaster strikes in their city. But that is not Christianity – that is selfishness. That is no being Jesus-like. That is following the devil. God doesn’t care how many bibles we have or how many bank notes are put into the bucket, if we can’t extend his arms in a time of need then we are not following Christ.
If you have experienced churches like this, I feel sorry for you. and you are right to question authenticity. But while the world reels in shock, we can still lift our voices in praise, not because we don’t care but because we know there is someone who cared so much that he let himself be ripped to shreds so he could know what it is like to suffer. He allowed himself to be put through the most unspeakable agony in order to empathise with our sadness.
So we open our mouths and unashamedly worship the One who can show his power and mercy to a world in desperate need of his touch.